The ultra-mobile device market-which includes smartphones, ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), netbooks, mobile Internet devices (MIDs), and mobile consumer electronics products-is set to achieve sales of 385 million units by 2014. The diversity of form factors and device types we see today will likely continue as vendors look to meet each audience's unique preferences, says ABI Research, which tracks netbook, UMPC, and MID announcements from all major vendors.
"Consumers and business buyers are only recently accustomed to the netbook feature set," says Jeff Orr, a senior analyst at the research firm. "Regardless of vendor, the majority of today's netbooks ship with Intel processors and Windows XP into developed markets." As uptake continues, developing markets will become the larger opportunity, leveraging both ARM-based processors and Linux operating systems, he adds.
A premium netbook category will also begin to emerge, offering larger screens and greater choices in connectivity solutions. Because today's netbooks are similar in both features and pricing, vendors are differentiating their products on aesthetics and build quality.
Pocket-size MIDs remain a "far more interesting product segment to watch," says Orr, because the market is still emerging. While the most common product design is the tablet format, competing form factors that have slider keyboards, clamshell designs, and touch-screen-only interfaces are gaining in popularity. "However, there is a danger that the MID market will disappear before it gets the chance to mature, as smartphones increase in popularity and mimic most if not all tasks performed by MIDs."
The line distinguishing MIDs and smartphones will also begin to blur as MIDs add voice, says Orr. In fact, Nokia has equipped its latest "Internet Tablet" (model N900) with cellular voice capabilities.