Psion NetBook Pro: a first look

Psion NetBook Pro: a first look

Summary: Psion Teklogix has announced the NetBook Pro, a familiar-looking device with some brand-new capabilities.

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The newly announced NetBook Pro is, according to manufacturer Psion Teklogix, a unique task-oriented mobile computing device aimed at the rapidly growing mobile CRM (Customer Relationship Management) market. The tasks involved are sales force automation, field service management and field inspection/data collection. Psion Teklogix is the company formed in late 2000 when Psion plc merged with Canadian company Teklogix precisely to focus on this sector.

Psion Teklogix’s NetBook Pro: descended from the Series 7 and NetBook, but running Windows CE .Net 4.2 and aimed at corporate mobile workforces.
The NetBook Pro bears a striking visual resemblance to the old Psion Series 7, the consumer-orientated device that in late 1999 set the mobile computing world ablaze with its small form factor, long battery life, colour screen and eminently usable keyboard. Some hailed it then as the future of mobile computing. The Series 7 was followed by the NetBook, a more advanced unit based around the same hardware design but aimed at the mobile enterprise market -- just like the new NetBook Pro.

Goodbye EPOC, hello Windows CE .NET
The NetBook Pro yet again adopts the same hardware design, being based around a sub-A4 clamshell form factor. However, there are improvements and changes pretty much everywhere else. Fans of the earlier devices will immediately notice the replacement of Psion’s old EPOC operating system with Microsoft’s Windows CE .NET 4.2. This is the same OS that forms the core of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC, and is Microsoft’s base embedded platform for small-footprint devices. The key benefit of switching to CE .NET 4.2, says Psion Teklogix, is the development and application integration opportunities it provides. Notably, it supports industry standards like 802.11b, Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS and CDMA. None of these capabilities are actually built into the Netbook Pro itself, but its PC Card, Compact Flash Type II and SD/MMC (SDIO) card slots allow them to be added. There is the added bonus that applications developed for Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC should run -- albeit not at full screen size. Psion Teklogix product manager Harvey Roberts would not be drawn further on this, other than to say: “Every third party application we have tried to date has run without difficulty”. To further add functionality, the NetBook Pro incorporates the JEM-CE implementation of Java.

Features and pricing
Weighing in at 1.1kg, the NetBook Pro’s clamshell lid lifts to reveal a usable keyboard and an 16-bit colour SVGA (800 by 600 pixel) touch-sensitive display. It has 128MB of RAM and 32MB of ROM, 20MB of which is available for end user storage. USB, serial and infrared ports are provided, while the processor is an Intel XScale PXA255 running at 400MHz. The software suite includes Pocket On Schedule for personal information management, Internet Explorer 6, WordPad for word processing and Windows Media Player. ActiveSync is provided for direct PC connectivity, although as the NetBook Pro’s target markets are largely field-based, it’s envisaged that this will generally be ignored in favour of over-the-air data exchange. Battery life is estimated to be at least eight hours, with a backup battery keeping data safe for ten days. The NetBook Pro will be available from the end of October, at the expected price of £1,152 (inc. VAT). This is close to the $1,500 US dollar price, even though all NetBook Pros are being manufactured in Wales and so should incur minimal shipping costs within the UK). If you’re thinking of buying a NetBook Pro to replace your notebook, note that Psion has no intention of directly supporting individual consumers at this stage. The official word is that it continually evaluates the suitability of products for multiple markets. However, Psion officially abandoned the consumer space late in 2001, and has made no attempt to re-enter it since. This means you almost certainly won’t be able to pop to a high-street electrical store and buy a NetBook Pro. Harvey Roberts admits, though, that there is nothing to stop online retailers selling single units if they choose to, so anyone who really wants to try this device probably just needs to do a little research.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Reviews

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16 comments
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  • So, where CAN I buy a Psion NetBook Pro?
    I am in the Greater Vancouver area in the west of Canada. Just 1 consumer who has used various Psion products in the past and very much wants to buy this one ASAP.
    Many thanks.
    anonymous
  • You can buy one here:
    http://www.expansys.com/psion.asp
    I don't think they have the netbook Pro up there yet, but there are various other psion products. That's the official psion store...
    anonymous
  • What is the target market in this case?

    I just cannot see the market position of the Psion(also with its hefty price tag). If I want something portable, I will go with the HP IPAQ. If I want something more powerful, I will go for powerful sub-notebooks like Sony TR1 or Fujitsu Pseries. They are literally desktop replacement.

    Plus the size is too BIG.

    Maybe if they can come up with something the size of the 5MX with all the goodies like bluetooth and WiFi, plus a personal favourite - run on standard batteries and make it under $500US, then I may consider it.
    anonymous
  • Please, it's only too big if you're in the wrong market. Maybe this device isn't targeted at you? did you think about that?

    The original hardware of the Series7/Netbook was second to none and a success in the business community.

    We'll be ordering several for a trial by our mobile sales force.
    anonymous
  • I have used the Netbook from its inception many years ago. I have been frustrated with the lack of support and limited applications, but it is the form factor that keeps me using it. It runs for hours on a single charge and carries everywhere. I will seriously look into the Netbook Pro.
    anonymous
  • It may be of your interest to know that there is a
    anonymous
  • Too bad Psion approached consumer marketing the wrong way (or seemingly not at all) with the 7 and the 5mx...and now the NetBook Pro. Most people I show my 5mx to say they never knew such a product existed, and that they would have bought one instead of the keypad-less Palms etc. I often work on Word and Excel docs, email etc without having to carry a laptop!- yet i still see people fumbling with full laptops and their Palms on airplanes and in hotels. If only they knew! Psion needs to hire an aggressive and capable marketing firm. Maybe I will buy a Sharp Zaurus when my 5mx finally wears out.
    anonymous
  • too big...
    anonymous
  • We are selling these machines also for consumers - please have a look at http://www.pulster.de - shipping worldwide. Chris
    anonymous
  • I have an old Psion 7 and would like the netbook- can you load microsoft office applications onto the machine?
    anonymous
  • I ordered and used the Netbook Pro for about a week. I was so frustrated with it I sent it back. Psion made a grave error when they adopted the CE.NET OS. The OS is very limited. A better choice would have been the PC2002 or 2003. Go to Microsoft and search for this:
    Comparison of Windows CE .NET 4.2, Pocket PC 2002, and Windows Mobile 2003 Software for Pocket PCs
    to learn the drawbacks with the ce.net os.
    anonymous
  • Hey Alec L., it sounds like you want to look at the Sharp Zaurus sl-6000 or the Sony Clie UX50. I've been shopping, too. Love my 5mx, but need something more current. Apparently I can't get a NetBook Pro, so Zaurus and Clie are looking good. Let me know if you heard differently.
    Good Luck
    LC
    anonymous
  • Frustrated! I like the look of this machine. I am a recent owner of a HP 5550 and have all the gadgets required to use it as a micro word processor and photo store.

    But... i hate having to alter files to use them on a PC, I find the screen size frustrating and am convinced that Ir connectability is somebodies attempt to take the proverbial.

    Would be great to see if this psion fits the gap between handy-little-computer and easy-to-use notebook. But... where do get one to have a look ? Do i need mug a rep to try one out?
    anonymous
  • Yes, it's me-"LC" (see my previous comment). I still really like my 5mx and I will buy another Psion if they resurrect it in some new form, but about 6 months ago I bought my wife a Sony Clie ux50 (built in WiFi and Bluetooth and a slew of nifty features including digital camera). What a nice product! We connected to the Web/email both through a Zoom Bluetooth 56k telephone modem and, more recently, through a high-speed cable modem and wireless router home network. The Sony supports 802.11b. It's great but I prefer Psion's keypad and screen size. So if the Psion Netbook Pro is too big or costs too much- consider the Sony.
    LC
    anonymous
  • Expansys both in the UK and US will get netBook Pro for you.

    http://www.expansys-usa.com/product.asp?code=120784

    Shame it only runs Windows CE.net, but there is petition for those interested in seeing it run EPOC (Symbian OS).

    http://www.petitiononline.com/nbookpro/petition.html
    anonymous
  • You can buy one from Clove Technology who also sell netbooks and other psion products.
    I
    anonymous