Topsy-Turvy: AMD Talks Up MIDs, Intel Cautions Against Gadget Feature Creep

For the past 18 months, Intel has been the company talking about mobile internet devices (MIDs), Atom, ultra-mobile PC's (UMPCs), and how it sees these burgeoning form factories as a new frontier for the company. AMD, in contrast, has talked down the importance of the netbook and sub-netbook market, choosing instead to focus on a thin-and-light product segment that better matches the company's current products. We've discussed AMD's reasons for avoiding the netbook space (for now) and why they ultimately made good business sense; more details are available here.

Check the recent news from both companies, however, and you might blink in confusion. Over at AMD Corporate, Patrick Moorhead, vice president of advanced marketing, is arguing that MIDs and UMPC's "May Inherit the Earth," while Intel's director of user experience, Genevieve Bell, cautions that trying to pack too much into a handheld device ultimately leads to a mediocre piece of equipment at best.

"I would love to get to a world where I only have one device," Bell (left) told Computerworld. "But it would just never work. I think we'll actually have more devices. Thinking we'll have one device that does everything is like our fetish with having paperless offices," she added. "It's jut not going to happen. The problem with convergence is we converge around the object and not the experience. As human beings, we are never just one thing. We are employees. We are partners. We are children. We are members of churches and social groups. We'll need different devices for different things."

AMD's Patrick Moorhead has a different take on the topic. Moorhead's blog post on the inevitability of UMPC/MID dominance is part of a series examining the long-term potential for such devices; he notes that he is: "obviously taking an extremist’s view hoping that by turning up the contrast ratio, you will get a better flavor for the debate." According to Moorhead, the long-term popularity and eventual dominance of handheld devices will be driven by their own increasing sophistication and the ability of "the cloud" to handle all the heavy lifting that necessitates a powerful processor or a lot of RAM. If this sounds familiar, it's because we've essentially heard the same argument from Google recently, re: Chromium.

Intel's focus, according to CTO Justin Rattner, is on improving device personalization and learning. "It's going to be about getting devices that know me," said Rattner. "That's something we think is really important. My phone doesn't know any more about me today than it did the day I got it. Think of the calendar in your phone as a soft sensor. The device should understand [from items posted in its calendar] what my day is like and whether I need vehicle navigation or I need to read something before an important meeting."

There's no contesting the point that manufacturers who try to cram too much functionality into one package inevitably end up with a horrific, kludgy product, but of the two approaches (AMD's being more hardware-centric, Intel's more experience-oriented), which, if either, would have you tossing away the PC and reaching for a MID?