Intel Developing Linux-based UMPCs

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Although the company hasn’t made any formal announcements yet, conference materials available for Intel’s Developer Forum to be held in Beijing April 17 to 18, indicate Intel is developing Linux-based Mobile Internet Devices (MID) platform, potentially ratcheting up competition in the so-far lackluster UMPC market.

According to PDF versions of conference materials (here and here) Intel’s MID platform will be based on Intel’s power-saving dual-core processors and boot into a streamlined version of LInux with a simplifed user interface geared toward consumer and pro-sumer tasks, rather than the professional and business markets targeted by current UMPC offerings. Intel anticipates MIDs will offer 4- to 6-inch touchscreen displays with resolutions up to 1,024 by 600 pixels, fast power-up and wake times, and run a mix of proprietary and open source applications. Intel anticipates differnet MID models will target different market segments: a “Stay in Touch” unit might offer a small footprint and focus on instant messaging, VoIP, email, and blogging; a “Be Entertained” model would offer a bigger display, more storage, higher sound and video quality, and even game controls, while an “Access Info & Locate” model would offer a large display of focus on news, sports, browsing, maps, and shopping information.

Intel’s outlined include provisions for wireless networking via BlueTooth, Wi-Fi, and HSDPA mobile broadband, and roll in Java and Mozilla Core technologies, with a target disk footprint under 512 MB. Intel wants units to operate well with 256 MB of RAM, although notes high-end models might crank that to 512 MB.

At first glance, the MID platform seems likely to get some traction, particularly in international markets where the high price of existing UMPC solutions is even more off-putting to consumers than it is in the North American market. If Intel can deliver a model computing platform which offers reasonable productivity tools, connectivity, along with entertainment and gaming options at a price substantially lower than Microsoft’s Origami platform…users may not much care whether they have mobile versions of Microsoft’s core Office applications.

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