Kewney: Dell win a coup for Psion Dacom

Dell has picked its portable modem supplier - and has chosen a relatively unknown UK company, Psion Dacom, to provide PC Card modems worldwide.

The move is a triumphant culmination of several months of Psion Dacom manoeuvering and negotiations aimed at convincing Dell that it was a truly global company. It involved establishing new marketing and public relations contacts in several countries, including the setting up of a Concord, Mass. office, and it is going to be a severe blow to Psion Dacom's better-known rivals such as Hayes and US Robotics.

The main reason the bigger rivals lost out, must be the fact that they are US companies, handicapped by their lack of experience in global GSM markets. The Psion Dacom Global card is truly global, connecting to the Internet via mobile phones anywhere in the world except America and Japan, where GSM isn't yet adopted.

Only Motorola Cellect modems can rival this capability. However, not all reviewers have found the Cellect a friendly GSM design - it has inherent usability problems. Worse, Motorola's Cellect is made by a subsidiary business which is even less integrated with Motorola's desktop modem division than is the case with US Robotics and the former Megahertz subsidiary which now makes the Sportster PC Cards - and the Sportster cards are easily the least satisfactory designs that USR produces. In any case, Sportster PC Card modems don't talk to GSM at all.

Hayes does make PC Card modems and some of them do offer GSM connectivity but the company doesn't have the experience in the GSM business that Psion Dacom offers, nor the universal connectivity - effectively, the ability to link to every major brand of GSM phone - that Gold Card Global 56K offers.

In the end, the deal was so significant that the Milton Keynes company was prohibited from announcing any deals until the stock markets had been notified this morning -- and exactly what it would be worth in financial terms, is, understandably, not up for public speculation.

My own understanding of the size of the deal would suggest that Dell will instantly become the modem maker's biggest customer.