Saturday, December 20, 2008

CES 2009: A mobile showcase for Netbooks and MIDs

My friends are buying Netbooks, not yet by the droves, but in sufficient numbers that I’m beginning to feel like I’m missing something.

Here’s the thing: I’m not that enamered by Netbooks in their current form. In fact, I don’t think there is much of a Netbook “form” as in form factor or OS/hardware/software design. To me, the Netbook is more about price than form. And I think that’s missing the opportunity here. So I sit on the sidelines waiting for things to shape up a bit.

A Netbook to me, should be more than just a smaller notebook with an old version of Windows or a veneered Linux.

To me, Intel’s Classmate PC Tablet PC, uh, I mean Netbook, is a better Netbook than most because it shows some design considerations that make sense for the small form factor.

I’m very interested in getting a chance to try out the Classmate PC at CES this year. It looks promising. I’m a bit concerned that the digitizer isn’t engineered well enough, but that’s par for the course. Something tells me the wrong engineers are working on this stuff.

Anyway, I’m guessing there are going to be some other interesting Netbooks at CES too. Can’t wait. I predict that several best of show products will fall into the Netbooks category–even if I might want to call them something else.

The other big thing I expect to see at CES is a plethora of MIDs. It’s been a year since Intel first highlighted them at last year’s CES show, but now I think we’re getting closer. As a developer, I’m keen on talking with Intel and its partners about the opportunities here. As I’ve blogged in the past, I’m a bit concerned about the lack of a cohesive hardware/software strategy here, but given my early adopter nature I’m willing to bend a little here.

As a heavy iPhone user with 40+ year old eyes, I’m eager to have a device that trumps the iPhone in large part because of a larger display. Give me a streamlined device with a display I can more comfortably read. Please. That’s a starting point. From there we can talk about how these kinds of devices should best be opened up to the ISV community and to consumers of all kinds.

More than anything I want CES 2009 to be a year about reality. With the downturn in the economy we need that right now. I want to know what I can use right now, what I can develop for right now, what I can design for right now. I’m always enthusiastic to see concept devices, but I need something real.

Fortunately I think this is exactly what’s going to happen. In fact, I think CES 2009 is going to be a banner year for mobile devices: For Netbooks. For MIDs. And, yes, even though no one seems to want to call them Tablet PCs anymore, for Tablets.

I wonder how wrong I’m going to be? :-)