While fans of the Psion series of PDAs and palmtop computers have hailed the devices as the future of handheld computing, the Psion systems have caught on mainly in Europe, with the European market favoring a clamshell design and a thumb keyboard for its PDAs.
The Diamond Mako — a rebranded U.S. version of the Psion Revo — did have some widespread success as a clamshell PDA in the United States when it debuted several years ago, but that success has been more or less eclipsed by the success of Palm OS and Pocket PC devices.
However, Psion Teklogix — a division of parent company Psion PLC — hopes to change this bias with the NetBook Pro, a task-oriented mobile computing device aimed at the laptop market and designed specifically with business users in mind.
The new device moves away from the platform’s traditional EPOC operating system in favor of Windows CE .NET, the system that forms the basis of Microsoft’s Pocket PC operating system.
Describing the NetBook Pro as “a clamshell mobile computer,” Psion Teklogix has designed the device to combine the virtues of a PDA — size, weight and battery life — with the benefits of a laptop computer.
“Presently, field workers have to make do with consumer-oriented PDAs or bulky, expensive laptops,” said Norbert Dawalibi, president and CEO of Psion Teklogix. “The task-oriented design and feature set of the NetBook Pro meet the demands of mobile workforces today and well into the future.”
The NetBook Pro does bear a resemblance to the old Psion Series 7, the company’s consumer-oriented device released in late 1999. The Series 7 was followed by the NetBook, a more advanced unit based on the same hardware design but aimed at the mobile enterprise market — just like the new NetBook Pro.
The NetBook Pro adopts the same hardware design, but fans of the earlier devices will immediately notice the replacement of Psion’s old EPOC operating system with Microsoft’s Windows CE .NET.
The EPOC operating system evolved into the Symbian OS, now owned by a joint venture involving Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Samsung and Motorola. The Symbian OS is the operating system of choice for smart mobile phones, and it forms the backbone of smart-phone offerings from Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
The NetBook Pro weighs 2.8 pounds and has an 8.5-inch touch-sensitive screen. Driven by a 400-MHz Intel PXA255 processor, the device boots instantly when powered up. It has several expansion slots, including slots for SecureDigital memory cards, Compact Flash cards and PCMCIA cards. The device supports almost any wireless card that will fit into those slots, including WiFi, Bluetooth and data services over wireless phone networks like GSM/GPRS and CDMA/1xRTT.
With its instant-on capability and a full keyboard that is large enough for touch-typing, Psion intends NetBook Pro to be useful for users who have to enter large amounts of data more quickly than they would be able to on a touch-screen-only PDA.
Windows CE .NET supports many networking and security protocols that are commonly used in large companies, which makes the operating system a good match for distributed-computing applications.
Psion expects that — in addition to being used for general mobile-computing applications — the Netbook Pro will be used for such purposes as sales-force automation and field-service management, where mobility and quick access to information are necessary, and where more advanced functions might be needed.
“With the introduction of the NetBook Pro, Psion Teklogix has again proven its skill in delivering market-leading mobile computing solutions,” said Alistair Crawford, CEO of Psion PLC.
The NetBook Pro will be available in North America and Europe at the end of October from Psion Teklogix’ sales offices, distributors and resellers.