Psion forges ahead with palmtop OS licensing plan

UK palmtop vendor Psion has taken the first steps towards making its software universal.

The firm has created a new company, Psion Software PLC, dedicated to licensing the operating system and applications that have helped make its products a world leader in handheld computing. Plans call for Psion's software to be at the heart of not only palmtops but also subnotebooks, and emerging categories such as 'smart' phones, network computers and mobile Web browsers.

The new company will offer its 16-bit EPOC/16 ROM software that sits in today's Series 3a, as well as its 32-bit EPOC/32 for use in high-end products. Company offices are already in place in London and California, with Tokyo to follow towards the end of the year.

"One of our strategies is to establish our platform as an open standard," said David Potter, chairman of Psion PLC. "We are already recognised as the world leader in the palmtop computer market and this sector will inevitably attract more players as communication and computing technologies continue to converge." However, Potter cautioned that it would be 1998 before Psion would realise "significant" licensing money.

Psion Software already has a host of hardware subassembly partners in place - including ARM, Digital and Cirrus Logic - with the aim of building a family of ready-made platforms for system makers, although it has yet to name vendors who will build products based on its software.

PCDN COMMENT: You don't have to be an industry guru to guess that handled and ultra-mobile devices for computing and communicating will be a boom business over the next decade, and if any company can build a business licensing a wide-ranging handheld platform it is Psion. With more than two million units sold and 33 per cent of the global palmtop market (according to Forrester Research, 1995) Psion has succeeded where many US and Japanese giants have signally failed. Its software know-how - developed over 13 years - is its crown jewels and, as Microsoft's floundering efforts have shown, it is no mean feat to pack high performance, security, ease of use and power management into such tiny code.

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