Geeks With Blogs

News Clicky Web Analytics

web stats View David Caddick (davidcaddick@gmail.com)'s profile on LinkedIn

Search this Site!

Locations of visitors to this page
View My Stats eXTReMe Tracker
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights. The opinions expressed within are my own and should not be attributed to any other Individual, Company or the one I work for. I just happen to be a classic techie who is passionate about getting things to work as they should do (and are sometimes advertised and marketed as being able to?) and when I can I drop notes here to help others falling in to the same traps that I have fallen in to. If this has helped then please pass it on - if you feel that I have commented in error or disagree then please feel free to discuss with me either publically or privately? Cheers, Dave
Thin Clients, VDI and Linux integration from the front lines.... Raw and sometimes unedited notes based on my experiences with VMware, Thin Clients, Linux etc.

Only a couple of weeks ago I was reminiscing with a colleague about the old Psion clamshell PDA's that were able to run on a couple of AA batteries for almost a week at a time, had almost instant boot and resume times, had a great sized screen (well before colour was available), and all sorts of other neat plus's.

In fact I know of some people who actually now use eBay to keep a plentiful stock of spare parts - just in case...  It's very interesting to read the background of that particular time and place in history, and it is so unfortunate that Britain very nearly had a replacement for the loss of the Motoring and Motorcycle Manafacturing Industry that it effectively lost to the Japanese after the 60's and 70's

Psion: the last computer

Secrets of the Sony we never had

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next >
Published Tuesday 26th June 2007 09:58 GMT

Special Feature The Series 5 pocket computer from Psion was launched 10 years ago this week. It was a remarkable achievement: entirely new silicon, a new operating system, middleware stack and applications were developed from scratch in just over two years.

This was the last time anyone undertook such a daunting task: it may be the last time anyone ever tries, either. Companies or projects that are formed to achieve simply one of these four goals typically end in failure: to achieve all four successfully, and put them in a product that was successful, too, was a triumph of creativity and management.

We now live in a world where our general-purpose computers are created from generic, off-the-shelf components. New technology systems take the form of mass market appliances, such as the TomTom navigation system, or the iPod music player. The "Protea" project, as it was called, now seems destined to be remembered as the last time anyone will create, from the ground-up, a new general-purpose computer.

As we discovered, however, this story is about much more than the life of a product. It's about the fate of a once-inventive and fearless computer company. Twice, Psion launched products into the teeth of a recession, products that defied accepted technical limitations and market wisdom to become success stories.

But just as it had with PDAs, the Psion Group also made plans to develop GPS navigation systems, hard-disk based music players, digital radios, and even set-top boxes - long before these markets existed.

Today, the people who drew up those plans at Psion now underpin successful businesses in the very fields Psion rejected. In four years, Psion's former hardware chief turned a tiny Dutch software company into the leader in SatNav systems: TomTom this year will generate $2bn in turnover, using a core of former Psion staff, and led by the computer division's former managing director Harold Goddijn, and its star sales chief, Corinne Vigreux.

And the Psion engineer who eight years ago scouted component factories in England with a dream of making a hard disk-based MP3 player, today heads the engineering for Apple's iPod division. The only one of these consumer electronics products to make it to market was a DAB Radio. While smaller than satnav and portable music, the digital radio market is expected to be worth $1bn next year.

So Psion had the chance to become something few imagine was ever possible: a home-grown consumer electronics giant with a global brand: a British Sony, or a British General Electrics.

Today, seven years from its bloody retreat from the consumer business, Psion is a larger business than it was in its apparent heyday, and is growing at a clip. But little of this is based on technology developed by itself: most of it was acquired with the purchase of Teklogix during the telecoms boom. Psion's lasting legacy has been to provide the core component for a 125 million smartphone market. Few people today would bet against this component - a sophisticated and resilient operating system developed in two years by a small team led by Colly Myers - to be the most used piece of system software in the world. That's no mean achievement and, of course, it's Psion's "genetic legacy", as Potter proudly calls it.

Meanwhile, former Psion staff ponder a list of "couldas" that never had a chance of being "shouldas": projects that never reached the market, that were success stories for other people.

Engineers often make such retrospective claims - but on closer examination, the company lacks the skill, design, or marketing experience to turn a bright idea into a successful product. However, in Psion's case, these claims have much merit, as the company had these skills in abundance. Mark Gretton, at TomTom, and David Tupman at Apple, each oversees the engineering for a hugely successful consumer product. In each case, success was achieved on a budget, compared to some of the more recent big budget consumer electronics projects - think PlayStation 3. Psion even turned down pleas to acquire its eventual nemesis in the PDA business, Palm (a story not recorded in Palm's biography).

Posted on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 9:45 PM Real Cool Stuff | Back to top


Comments on this post: From TheRegister - Psion: the last computer - Secrets of the Sony we never had

No comments posted yet.
Your comment:
 (will show your gravatar)


Copyright © Dave Caddick | Powered by: GeeksWithBlogs.net