The iPhone is a 'MID' with many ARMs

ARM is marketing its processors as the best choice for mobile Internet devices, or MIDs, a term Intel is also using. One of the best-known MIDs is the Apple iPhone.

1999 Psion Revo Plus PDA looks a lot like MIDs today.
1999 Psion Revo Plus PDA looks a lot like MIDs today. Miha Ulanov

The iPhone is a mobile Internet device. Just in case you forgot, ARM wants to remind you that before the Intel Atom processor there was the iPhone and its handful of ARM processors. Yeah, it's a MID too.

Listening to Intel, a casual observer might believe that the world's largest chipmaker is single-handedly creating the class of tiny devices called mobile Internet devices or MIDs.

But ARM processors have been powering small, low-power devices since 1985. There was the Psion series of handhelds, the Apple Newton, Nintendo DS, and, today, products like the Microsoft Zune. All used or use ARM architecture chips.

On a Web page titled Mobile Internet Devices, ARM now posts this marketing message: "It is clear that the future of mobile computing rests in devices that are truly mobile, always connected and providing a rich Internet browsing experience--ARM calls these devices Mobile Internet Devices (MID)." Intel does too.

The Apple iPhone is full of ARM silicon and technically a MID
The Apple iPhone is full of ARM silicon and technically a MID ARM

ARM lists other devices like the Nokia N95, the BlackBerry 8700g, and the Motorola Q. All powered by ARM silicon.

The Web page continues: "ARM licenses the intellectual property that powers MIDs. This includes all the technology required by the chips at the heart of these devices: the microprocessor, digital signal processing, embedded memory, graphics acceleration, (and) fabric interconnect."

And ARM is not exaggerating. If anything ARM is understating the case. As one of the most understated chip architectures today, few consumers know the name. And almost no one listening to their Zune or iPod or talking on their Nokia phone knows that there is ARM silicon inside. But consumers can hardly miss the flashy Intel, AMD, ATI, or Nvidia branding on their PCs.

And this conspicuous PC-style branding strategy will carry over to Intel MIDs and Netbooks too. Lest consumers forget, maybe ARM should do a little more in-your-face branding.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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