Linux powers thin MID  

Posted by Daniela Mehler

Linux powers thin MID

USI demonstrated a super-thin, Linux-based mobile Internet device (MID) that offers GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, and either HSPA or WiMAX. The Intel Atom-equipped USI MID-160 sports a 5-inch 800x480 touchscreen, but lacks a keyboard, helping it keep a 0.6-inch profile.

Demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Taipei, Taiwan today, the MID-160 is said to be based on the Menlow platform, which means that like other devices that comply with the Intel-defined MID format, it runs the Intel Atom Z5-series processor. The device most likely runs an Atom Z500 clocked to 800MHz.

The 8.8-ounce (250 grams) MID-160 ships with 512MB RAM and a generous 8GB of solid-state storage (SSD). The 800x480 touchscreen is said to measure between 4.8 to 5 inches and offer 167,000 colors. The company did not release the actual dimensions of the entire device except for the thickness, but they appear to be similar to other announced MIDs, which have similar-sized screens.

Like previously announced MIDs such as the BenQ S6, the WiBrain "i1" MID, and the almost identical Aigo P8860D and Gigabyte "M528" MIDs, the MID-160 offers built-in 3G cellular networking (HSPA), along with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a microphone. It appears to lack the accelerometers of the BenQ S6, but offers GPS and WiMAX, just in time for the official launch of Sprint's U.S.-based XOHM WiMAX service.

Linux powers thin MID


The MID-160 also appears to be one of the first Atom-based MID to opt for a touchscreen-only design that omits the slide-out keyboard. (Similar designs are expected from Lenovo and a few others, and Asus recently introduced its R50A, a keyboardless MID that runs Windows Vista.) It will be interesting to see which format meets with the most success. Is the MID ultimately going to succeed as a tiny netbook or as a large, VoIP-only smartphone?

Skipping the keyboard had one immediate advantage for USI: it helped to reduce the weight and thickness of the device. To further assist the MID-160 in shrinking down to its 0.6-inch (1.5cm) thickness, the company designed an "ultra-thin" display screen. USI also integrated its own custom-designed, small-footprint WiMAX SiP (system in package) and dual-band WiFi/WiMAX modules that support 802.11b/g, says the company.

A tiny HSPA module for 3G

The MID-160 supports either WiMAX or HSPA connectivity, but not both at once, says USI. The HSPA 3G modem, called the "GTM501", was custom-made for the device by Option, and is billed as "the world's smallest HSPA module." The 25 x 30 x 2.5mm GTM 501 is claimed by Option to be the only 3G HSPA embedded module available in the LGA form factor, which it says offers "significant space saving compared with PCI Express MiniCards." The MID-160 also includes Option's GlobeTrotter Connect for Linux connection management software, which the company developed especially for the MID format.

The MID-160 runs Ubuntu Linux, says USI, but it does not mention the Intel Moblin stack that is expected to run on most Intel-based MIDs. Ubuntu Linux was Moblin's foundational Linux distribution, however, until the Intel-sponsored switched to Fedora for Moblin 2.0. Software features for the MID-160 include "instant communication" software, "browsing the Internet with Flash and the latest web technologies," as well as "rich email including attachments," says USI.

Based in Taipei, USI (Universal Scientific Industries Co., Ltd) bills itself as a design and manufacturing service (DMS) company specializing in miniaturization technologies and systems integration. Given this profile and the lack of details provided about the product, the MID-160 is likely to be rebranded by a different company.

According to Pankaj Kedia, director of global ecosystem programs for Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, the MID-160 “was designed to help make the Internet on small devices possible and for energy efficiency. When combined with USI’s system level innovation, the Intel Atom processor makes it possible to achieve smaller, yet smarter MIDs for the demanding mobile user.”


No details were given on pricing or availability of the USI MID-160. More information may be found here.

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This entry was posted on 10:45 PM .