MWC: Intel Takes on the Mobile Internet Device

After success with its low-power Atom processor in netbooks, Intel (s INTC) is embracing the mobile Internet device, with the chip giant expected to announce at this year’s Mobile World Congress a planned MID with LG Electronics that will include 3G voice capabilities. The MID will run on Intel’s Moorestown chipsets, and debut next year. Also at the show, Intel is announcing a partnership with wireless handset design firm Elektrobit, to offer a generic MID platform that will include some type of Atom chip — although not necessarily voice.

Intel’s focus on MIDs is a bit odd given the potential it has to cannibalize netbook sales, not to mention evidence of the chipmaker’s ambivalence toward the form factor. However, an Intel/LG MID would be a huge step for Intel because it takes its Atom processor beyond tiny computers (i.e. netbooks) and puts it into what is essentially a large phone (although details of the actual form factor are sketchy). The phone has long been territory owned by ARM (s ARMH), whose IP cores are the basis of many of the smartphones out there today. Intel’s push into MIDs also means more competition for the many vendors, including Qualcomm (s QCOM), that offer integrated processors and radios for phones today and have designs on the MID market as well.

However, targeting the MID market isn’t a guaranteed success, since it’s not really defined, and it depends on carriers offering compelling data plans to really make an MID worth toting around in addition to a smartphone and as a replacement for a laptop. But that’s not stopping Intel from pushing cheap, portable computing. But cheap hardware, without cheaper data plans, are not going to convince consumers to turn in their smartphones and trade up to an MID.