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Ultra-Mobile Device Multifaceted Form Factor

A whole new class of always-on Internet-connected products, collectively termed Ultra-Mobile Devices (UMDs), will become popular over the next five years, according to ABI Research.

By appealing to a wide range of buyers UMDs will reach shipments of nearly 95 million units by 2012, and should prove extremely profitable for their makers.

"Mobile Internet Devices and UMPCs" is the first study covering both types of devices. It categorizes in unprecedented detail the buyers who will be adopting them, and what applications they will be running.

"UMDs are a very exciting, potentially very lucrative area," says ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt. "What makes this market so intriguing is that products will assume so many different forms. That product differentiation will be an integral part of the ultra mobile device marketing plan."

UMDs are of two types, Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), which run Windows and business applications and are aimed at business users, and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), which target consumers and are more likely to run a Linux operating system.

The latter, with their lower prices and wider appeal, will make up by far the majority of the devices shipped. Apple's iPhone and Nokia's N800 may be seen as precursors of the MID.

Both UMPCs and MIDs will feature multiple wireless connectivity technologies -- Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and cellular -- to maintain any time, anywhere Internet connectivity.

This diversity is also reflected in the range of applications that will be offered: Web browsing, music, navigation, voice, and data communications including email and IM, photo/video, and vertical commercial applications will all be popular. Some new applications, such as medical monitoring, are now in development as well.

The research identified several user personas who will find varying combinations of these applications appealing. These include Frugal Generalists, Lifestyle Boomers, Soccer Moms, Gen Y Social Networkers, and Multimedia Enthusiasts.

The ultra mobile device ecosystem will ultimately contain hundreds of vendors -- chipmakers, display and device manufacturers, application developers and service providers -- and the new report offers strategic recommendations for all of them.

I believe that this is one of the more interesting emerging market segments, and so I'll attempt to cover it more fully in future posts.

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