The market for mobile internet devices (MIDs) is set to explode over the coming years, according to a panel of analysts at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai.
MIDs are a brand new platform that is expected to see rapid adoption as it fills the gap between laptops and smartphones.
Growth will be driven by the increasing mobility of users who currently lack a single device to accomplish all tasks. This is because notebooks are too cumbersome and mobile phones are too limited.
One analyst even predicted that the MID market would grow faster than the overall mobile sector.
This is because the necessary infrastructure is already in place, meaning that growth will not be hampered as it was for mobiles as networks were being established.
One analyst explained that "there are a lot of hungry vendors out there, which can only be good for the industry and customers".
Although the MID form factor is very similar to that of ultra mobile PCs (UMPCs), they differ in focus and features.
While UMPCs aim to provide a full PC experience in a handheld form factor, MIDs are more focused on connectivity and internet access.
Jim McGregor, research director and principal analyst at In-Stat, said that MIDs are essentially an evolution of UMPCs.
Although UMPCs have not been particularly successful to date, the timing now is much better for the launch of MIDs.
"This is more about timing than technology. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together," said McGregor.
"The hardware is now powerful enough, the ubiquitous connectivity is there and the demand for full mobile internet access from consumers is there as well. "
However, the panel pointed out that MIDs still have hurdles to overcome if they are to see mass adoption.
The biggest stumbling blocks seen by the analysts are the potential usage models of these devices, and the business models that operators and carriers will employ.
To overcome the first problem manufacturers need to make available a wide range of MIDs in a variety of form factors and at a range of price points, allowing customers to decide which device best suits their requirements and budget.
As the primary focus of the MIDs is connectivity and web services, the second issue of operator tariffs could make or break the platform in certain markets.
All the analysts stressed that in order for MIDs to see the best possible adoption rates mobile operators need to scrap usage-based payment plans and adopt flat-rate models and use other value-added services to boost revenues.