Psion champions consumer with new Revo organiser

Palm-top pioneers get into the consumer shirt pocket with style-conscience, connected Psion 3 replacement

Handheld computing trailblazer Psion is pitching its latest offering -- the £299 Revo -- as the "organiser for everyone", in an attempt to capture a previously unconvinced audience of potential palmtop users with an appreciation for style and convenience. Click for images.

Psion is still holding out on a one-box PDA/phone replacement, but with the Revo it has supplied a 200g, shirt-pocket friendly, email/Internet connected PDA which it believes will complement the Psion 5mx, slog it out with 3Com's Palm in the consumer fray, and send the gadget freaks wild.

Referring to Nokia Communicator-type products, David Levin, Psion CEO explained: "Whenever companies have produced a single platform, they have had to make trade-offs -- in terms of screen-space, in terms of keyboard. Until we can see a one-box solution that satisfies our views on ergonomics and so on, we feel that a two-box system [palm top and phone] is more appropriate. Don't hold your breath, although it is apparent there is a need for a 'one-box' one day."

Psion has shipped 3.5 million PDA products to date, and is now looking to expand what it confusingly refers to as a "very broad niche." The company quoted Sherwood research who recently estimated a possible 25 million possible users in Europe that could benefit from mobile data access.

Helen Blackburn, product manager for the Revo was quick to differentiate the new organiser from the company's last attempt at a pocket-sized consumer organiser, the Sienna: "The only thing the Revo shares with the Sienna is its convenient size," she explained. "With EPOC we are using a different operating system for one thing. Another major difference is that the Revo is connected, I can use email and the Internet, whereas the Sienna was standalone. It's chalk and cheese."

Celebrity Psion user comedian Stephen Fry, attending the launch, supported the new platform at the expense of main competitor 3Com saying: "It's not just how big it is, but what you can do with it, and you can pretty much do everything with this other than open a nice bottle of wine -- I'd personally use a Palm Pilot for that..."

Psion's drive for this launch -- apart from simply snaring a "substantial number" of new type of user for its products -- appears to be improving the perception of convenience and accessibility of its products.

"If I had to sum it up in one line, I'd say the Revo is a pocket-sized email organiser for people to stay in touch wherever they are," said Blackburn. "Until now devices have been too expensive and too complex for some customers."

She then went on to stress the new-improved convenience of the many accessibility functions, including cleaner Internet set-up wizards, an infrared enabled phone manager sync agent and two additional Revo-optimised products.

"We have also launched a Psion mobile Internet portal and ISP, with content optimised for the Revo screen. A browser and free ISP service is included in the Revo box. "There is also a new communications device launched today, the Psion 56K travel modem complete with GSM, V.90 and IR."

Although it boosts interconnect speeds to a possible 56Kbps, the travel modem will cost consumers a further £179.95, and, Psion admitted, will be in limited supply this side of Christmas

At £299, the Revo remains very much a Palm alternative, rather than a Palm killer. The Revo comes complete with all standard PC and Mac adapters, a PC docking station, PsiWin 2.31, two batteries offering 14 hours power, a 36MHz ARM 710 processor, 8MB RAM, and EPOC Release 5.

The High Street will get its hands on the Revo from 15th October. How many will they sell? "Lots squared," expects comedian Fry.

"We're certainly geared up for demand," reassured Levin. "But clearly could always make more."

Will you be pocketing a Revo, or giving it a wide berth? Tell the Mailroom