Psion (2) -needs new mobile comms plan

Following the collapse of merger talks with Amstrad, Psion remains at the fork in the road as regards its mobile communications direction, according to experts.

A big attraction of buying Amstrad was thought to be its DanCall digital cellular phone business which would have given Psion the opportunity to put a mobile wireless link into its handheld systems rather than rely on third-party kludges. Now, Psion must decide whether to develop the comms link itself or to buy it in from another source.

Ian Beasley, technical director at TeleAdapt, a UK mobile communications specialist, speculated that Psion could use its Psion Dacom modem business to copy the cellular-phone-in-a-cradle approach favoured by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in its OmniGo product. The HP system lets a handheld hook up to a standard GSM cellular phone via a piggyback slot.

"They've got to either do it themselves or buy it in," Beasley said. "Obviously they've got the Psion Dacom modem side of the business but they need to migrate that technology to the palmtop. Psion was advertising for digital GSM staff recently and could use is own people to build in GSM comms."

A catch to that approach could be that so far Psion and Psion Dacom have taken their own development routes, Beasley said. "They've never actually bolted the two divisions together. When I've spoken to them in the past it's been left hand and right hand; they've never known what the other is doing."

Beasley said an alternative approach would be to build in a PC Card slot. "The Psion handheld hasn't really changed its form factor very much for a long time. They've really got a proprietary interface and need something more general. In PC Card, there are oodles of applications and cards available, including GSM cards."

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