Canonical Mobile Internet Devices: Still Coming Soon?When Canonical announced plans to develop Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) with Intel back in mid-2007, I expected to test -- or perhaps even buy -- an Ubuntu MID sometime in 2008. But we're now into early 2009, and the MID effort doesn't appear to be paying dividends yet for Canonical. Here's why.

MIDs are expected to resemble smart phones. Many of the devices are anticipated to include touch screens and a heavy reliance on WiFi. But as of this writing, Ubuntu-based MIDs remain mostly vaporware.

In Canonical's defense, the company does have its hands full expanding ISV (independent software vendor) and OEM support for Ubuntu on PCs, notebooks and netbooks. Still, I think the MID effort is proving far more challenging than Canonical originally expected.

Consider the project timeline so far:
  • In a June 2007 press release, Canonical stated: "The first full release of the software will be available in October 2007 corresponding with the normal release cycle of the Ubuntu operating system. Working collaboratively with Intel, Canonical is working to deliver software on actual devices from system manufacturers in 2008."
  • By July 2008, there were clear signals from Canonical that the Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition was gaining momentum far faster than the Ubuntu for MIDs.
I asked Canonical Marketing Manager Gerry Carr for a MID update via email last week, and he replied January 6 with this perspective:
"I think you will see on the Intel stand at CES a significant focus on MIDs with many new machines running a variety of operating systems which will be in market in 2009.
We continue to maintain and improve the version of Ubuntu specifically for MIDs. It is a different category to netbooks, it requires more customisation of the OS and has consequently been slower to get into market but I think with Moblin 2.0 accelerating the number of applications available and providing a common compelling software stack for all players there will be many more MID success stories in 2009 for Ubuntu, Intel the OEM device manufacturers and network carriers. More news when we have it Joe."
Still, Moblin has been a mixed bag for Canonical's MID efforts. A January 19 SeekingAlpha blog entry describes how Moblin 1.0 didn't gain much traction, and describes why Moblin 2.0's architecture and delivery remain the focus of much debate.

I'm still in the market for an Ubuntu MID. Anybody willing to sell -- or rent -- me one?

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