Ubuntu Netbooks vs. Mobile Internet Devices: What's the Difference?

Sorry if I'm the only person who's confused about Canonical's mobile Linux strategy. The company has at  least two Ubuntu software projects -- one for Netbooks, the other for Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) -- that sound strikingly similar. So what's the difference between Ubuntu for Netbooks and Ubuntu for MIDs? Canonical gave me some answers during OSCON 2008.

Here's a simple way to think of each project, according to Canonical marketing manager Gerry Carr:

  • Ubuntu Netbook Remix is designed for sub-notebooks. The devices are close in design to notebook computers, and are meant to be secondary PCs for mobile applications -- such as checking email, Twitter and other Web 2.0 applications during a quick stop at Starbucks or a WiFi hotspot. Netbooks are expected to debut later this year at all major computer retailers, and will cost about $300 to $500, predicts Carr. Two major global manufacturers have already agreed to ship Netbook devices, though Carr declined to mention the companies by name.
  • Ubuntu for Mobile Internet Devices (MID) is designed for computers that are close to smart phones in design. MID devices are expected to have touch screens -- similar to the iPhone -- and may also have similar characteristics to forthcoming Google Android devices. In some cases, MIDs may be free devices that consumers receive as part of a wireless Internet service plan, predicts Carr.
So, which is the bigger priority at Canonical: MID devices or Netbooks? Both are big opportunities, according to Carr, but Netbooks are higher priority because the hardware platform is already well-understood by potential customers. Indeed, the Asus Eee PC has helped to define the sub-notebook market.
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