Intel claims the market for mobile internet devices (MIDs) could become as big as the PC market in over the next decade.

Intel unveiled its new low-power Atom processors at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shanghai, and is confident its chips could power a new generation of computers that allow us to access the web anywhere. MIDs are small, 'pocketable' products that fall in between small laptops and smartphones in size and capability.

"We think the mobile internet device market will be big," Anthony Yung, a spokesman for Intel, told PC Advisor's sister title Computerworld US. "The internet is going mobile. We see this as the next big opportunity for Intel over the next five or 10 years. The trend is to take a lot of the computing and internet capacity to small devices. We'll see the market growing to the scale of the PC business in five to 10 years."

See also:

Intel Atom MIDs to run XP, Vista and Linux

However, for a market now in its infancy to grow that fast in just five to 10 years would be an enormous growth curve - one that may not be realistic, especially with so many people satisfied with today's iPhones and other smartphones, said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

"You can divide Intel's products into two classes," added King. "There are products they sell tons and tons of, and then there's another class where Intel goes out on a limb and chases a market that is immature and entirely fictional. I think the company is taking a flyer on this market. I'm just not sure there's enormous commercial demand for them."

Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, agrees. "Frankly, there isn't much of a mobile internet device market today," said Haff. "There are a lot of questions about how that market will develop. How many devices are people will to carry with them? What form will these devices take? How do smartphones, cell phones and small laptops play out against each other?"

Intel's Yung, though, thinks he knows pretty much how it will play out. And he says smartphones aren't going to cut it when people want to be fully connected on the fly.

"Right now, people can't enjoy the full internet experience when they're on the go," he said. "There's a need for a very high-performance [mobile] device. Websites have a lot of video and graphics and they require a lot of performance. There's a lot of content you just can't take advantage of now."

Intel noted at its developer's forum in Shanghai this week that Fujitsu, Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi and Lenovo all plan to sell mobile internet devices based on the Atom processor.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said Intel just might be on the right track by betting big on the emerging devices.

"That market is definitely growing faster than the enterprise, both in the US and worldwide," said Olds. "It's probably is going to grow faster than PC's, but it is definitely more profitable. And that makes it a very attractive market."

Intel's Yung said OEM vendors are slated to begin shipping mobile internet devices based on the new Atom process in this quarter.

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