Analysis: Guy Kewney on Psion

A handy tip: You can safely ignore most of what you read about the launch of the new Psion pocket computers in several magazines and newspapers today. If you take it seriously, you'll be astonished at how many different machines the company is apparently launching.

A handy tip: You can safely ignore most of what you read about the launch of the new Psion pocket computers in several magazines and newspapers today. If you take it seriously, you'll be astonished at how many different machines the company is apparently launching. Concentrate on the reports that suggest that nothing much has been revealed, and that the magic word "Dancall" is the one to wait for.

For example, one trade paper has announced that the Psion 4a has been announced, that it uses an Acorn Research Machines (ARM) RISC chip, and is Internet-ready. Not true, alas.

Another daily news source proclaimed a machine like the Nokia 9000, which is a combined GSM phone and pocket PC; too big to hold to your hear, and useless as a notebook. It would be tragic if true; fortunately, it isn't.

Probably closer to the truth was the small "Trends" item in the latest edition of PC Magazine, which warned users of the popular Psion 3a that no serious upgrade could be expected for about a year. This remains true, despite the announcement of the Psion 3c.

Clearly, a publicity cock-up of World Cup proportions has been inflicted on Psion; scapegoats are doubtless being tethered in tiger country right now. But in fact, the responsibility for all this unfounded speculation is Psion's own, because it has been known that the Psion Siena and the Psion 3c have been under development for almost a year now, and for all that time, nobody could get confirmation out of Psion itself.

Why? What's been the problem, why the secrecy -- and what, exactly, is going on? The real answer is that the company is developing some very ambitious technology, which won't appear for a while yet. Behind the launch of the Psion 3c -- basically a 3a with infra-red and a faster RS-232 serial port -- the real hard work is being done on hardware and on software for the next century. The hardware will be stunning; a system without cables, but integrating keyboard, display, cellphone, and pager into an office network. The software will be even cleverer; a complete multitasking platform including groupware, a Visual Basic clone called Oval, and one of the most sophisticated personal and group organisers around.

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