As I write this, I’m sitting in seat 17F. My air speed is about 517mph, and I’m 35,146 feet above Limon, Colorado. Last year, this would have been a boring five-hour plane ride. This year, my hours in the air feel no different than kicking back at home on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I’m on a computer, farting around on the Internet. And while that’s undoubtedly nice, I really want—no, that’s not right—I need more.
You know the question everyone always asks: “If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?” The unimaginative types say they want an adamantium skeleton or X-ray vision, but I’m not interested in “classic” superpowers. I want instant brain-level access to the Internet. I want to know everything there is to know about everything—or at least have that information available at the speed of Google*. And I want all the relevant info at any given time displayed in a context-rich overlay on top of whatever I’m actually looking at. That’s not too much, is it?
Intel’s strategy for Atom processors and WiMAX hinges partly on a new class of handheld computers called mobile Internet devices (MIDs). Larger than cellphones but smaller than subnotebook PCs, MIDs are supposed to make the Internet available anytime, anywhere.
Actually, MIDs aren’t new. They’re the third major attempt to establish the nebulous product category of personal digital assistants (PDAs). Hit the jump for a history lesson, and read what challenges need to be overcome.