Posts Tagged ‘psion’

In Jolla the hackers finally have a smartphone they can fiddle with

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Arriving just before the holidays, I’ve finally had some time to sit down with the Jolla I ordered as part of the first batch of FInnish smartphones are write a proper preview of the handset. Given I can spend a decent amount of time with it, a full review is going to take another week or two, but here are my first thoughts:

Differentiating in hardware is not Jolla’s goal – it’s all about the software and specifically about Sailfish OS. Sailfish OS is based on the Mer project, which was built on the MeeGo project, which itself was a merger of the Mobiln and Maemo projects. In short, a lot of energy and time has been invested in an alternative Linux-based mobile operating system, and Sailfish OS has a lot of people emotionally involved with their success.

…Compared to the single home button of an iOS device (and Apple’s slide-out menus from the top and bottom of the screen), or the three-button back/home/search of Windows Phone, Sailfish OS has a lot of ‘default’ operators. Because they are not identical to those found on other smartphones, they will be labelled as unintuitive. It also takes more time to build up the muscle memory and the instinctiveness of six or seven controls as opposed to two or three, which leads to a steeper learning curve for a Jolla smartphone user. I’ll talk more about the impact this interface has when I do a full review of the handset, because I’m still having to think consciously about what swipe to do to perform an operation. I think the true value of the OS will start to show through once I no longer need to think about how to use the basic features of the user interface.

You can read my  Jolla preview over on Forbes.

Some thoughts on the Pebble smart watch

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Four weeks on the wrist, and I’m all set to go Charlton Heston on you if you try to pry it off. The Pebble smartwatch cracks the challenge of the smartwatch, and while it’s not the final iteration of the wearable technology, the Pebble reminds me of the promise of the early Psion and Palm devices I used.

The Pebble reminds me of the early days of the PDA, with many limitations in the hardware and software being overcome by smart hacking. The limitations of size and interface are obvious, while others are down to the hardware design (the Pebble watch currently has space for just eight third party apps, be they watch faces or apps accessed from the Pebble menu). But the small Pebble team are doing their best to harness the community, get them involved, and improve the product through their efforts. That’s paying off.

Should you buy the Pebble? If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, it certainly has to be one of the watches to consider. Of the current watches on the market, it is the one that I would buy for myself. As for recommending it, anyone looking at the Pebble has to remember that it is on the cutting edge of wearable technology, and it’s not going to be perfect. But it’s the smartwatch that I feel has the most promise, will have the most development and support, and will never be a chore to charge and wear.

More in-depth thoughts over on my Forbes column.

Are you sure mobile device screens are ‘getting bigger?’

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Fascinating point from Steve Litchfield today on AAWP. Screen size on the recently released Huawei Ascend Mate? 6 inches. Screen size on the venerable Psion Series 5mx? 6 inches.

It started with the 7650 camera phone, it ends with the 808 camera phone

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Nokia’s Q4 results, released today:

During our transition to Windows Phone through 2012, we continued to ship devices based on Symbian. The Nokia 808 PureView, a device which showcases our imaging capabilities and which came to market in mid 2012, was the last Symbian device from Nokia.

And that’s also the end of Psion’s operating system in consumer electronics, with the EPOC Series 5 standing out as the first device runnig the OS that would become Symbian. Want to go back further? Start at the SIBO Series 3 PDA’s that inspired the Electronic Piece of Cheese OS, that grew up to be Symbian Belle.

What could happen to WebOS now?

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

So you have a competent smartphone operating system, an engineering team that, with the right inducement, could stay with the OS, and a rather fluid market looking for options. What will HP do with WebOS next? Let’s have some pointless speculative fun over the next few paragraphs.

Facebook buys the whole operation.

Probably a long shot, and built on the speculation that Zuckerberg and co. are working on a Facebook phone. They certainly have some raw data (via Three in the UK), and acquiring a bundle of software engineers, an OS that is built on HTML5 and web technologies, with (you assume) a working relationship with hardware manufacturers. the question remains whether Facebook could sell better than HP, but they’d be in a far better place to monetise the handsets through Facebook Credits, advertising, and the whole social graph. Chances on this one? Low but at least it would make sense.

The patents go on Ebay

Most likely the jewels will be hawked around – there are a bundle of patents available to the highest bidder, various tranches of IP, and I’d expect the Linked In profiles of all the Engineer to be up to date. Broken up is the most likely fate.

Christmas comes early for the open source movement

Yes Android is open (Go  Andy!), but a people are finding out, there’ a lot of kinks along that road. So what if HP decided to go for a scorched earth? Engineering time would need to be found to clean up the code and make it suitable for public consumption, but imagine if WebOS was suddenly available to everyone. Android is closely tied to the Google ecosystem so could never be 100% open, Symbian is out there, but Nokia has kept back a lot of the more useful applications. There is no ‘build it youself’ OS out there.

It’s a very very low chance, but it would be just another crazy step in the smartphone world over the last few weeks and months.

David Potter’s chequebook opens up 20 years later

Back in the mid-nineties Palm had a number of options to it – it sold and went with 3Com, but one option would have been to be bought by Psion. And while that company has had an even rougher time of it, it’s still around, making PDAs for Enterprise as Psion Teklogic. Specialising in lower volume runs, could they swing in and take WebOS and build up a  boutique range of smartphones? (Hey I did say these would be fun!)

HTC become the primary licencee

To my mind this is a strong contender. With problems in the house of Android and Google hitching Motorola to their side, the major Andoird players need to check their cupboards. Yes they could swing to Windows Phone ,but Nokia’s the big player there. Samsung do have a reserve option in Bada, ZTE are churning out low cost handsets so won’t be that worried about any high end device dominance… but what does HTC have? Exactly. If they’re careful they can avoid burning a bridge with Google, but if HTC want to move up from simple box shifting, then WebOS could be one strategy.

What will really happen?

Who knows. I suspect the answer will be not much. The last thing HP need is another company making a success of WebOS when they didn’t. That could be muted if it was a simple licencee program and a sucessful partner, but that has a lot of support needs and I don’t think HP are moving in that direction. expect lots of noise, some smart ideas never followed through on, and no more WebOS devices.

They could have been contenders, now Psion is a sad headline

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Psion, which supplies a range of rugged hand held computers, has lost nearly 2% after announcing a plunge into the red.

Just One More Thing…

Friday, December 4th, 2009

I’ve been working on something on the quiet. Actually a few of us have been working on something. If you were at Edinburgh Coffee Morning or The Tuttle Club today you may have caught sight of this little beast in the raw.

We’re calling it the PsiXpda, and we’re publicly announcing it today.

The PsiXpda Range

I’m back in the hardware game! What, you never realised that I used to be in that? Ah well, nothing like hiding things in plain sight. Bet you thought my mentions of the ZX81 on Twitter were really about Clive Sinclair’s machine as well…

Some specs? Intel Atom processor, 1GB Ram, 16GB SSD storage, 800×480 touch screen (or you can use the capacitive track-pad in the screen bezel), dual format Tablet or backlit qwerty keyboard, bluetooth, Wi-fi b/g, integrated 3G card, user replaceable battery, full USB port… or you could grab the spec sheet from here.

Where can you see one in action? Well I’m going to be at Travelling Geeks and Le Web from Sunday, and I’ll have some demo units with me – so stop me and ask to have a look. Alternatively there’s the company website or the @psixpda Twitter account.

And how long till they ship? Next week.

Does Google Chome OS redefine our computing needs?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

So the dust settles on the details on Chrome OS and everyone can spend the next few months debating Google’s strategy.

Unlike other Bay Area companies, Google has been known to get it wrong, so just because they are doing something, it doesn’t meant that they will make a success of it. With Chrome OS they’re making the biggest play to cloud computing yet. By cloud computing they actually mean “we’ll be your hard drive that you can connect to wherever you are in the world.”

Yes Google have brought us full circle back to the days of mainframes Dec52’s and VT-100s. Lovely. But now it’s got a shiny name (“cloud”) and a big name behind it. Which it’s going to need because they’ve triggered a holy war.

At the an of smartphones the discussion had been one-box or two-box. Would people want all the functionality in a single potentially compromised device or two dedicated devices that talk to each other. History has pointed to the one-box as the preferred solution but a good two box beats an average one-box… and vice versa.

I think that we’re going to see the same with Google Chrome and netbook OS’ in general, but it won’t be as clear a solution as Colly remembers. Essentially you’ll be choosing if you want your portable computer to be a thin client that relies almost totally on being connected for every operation (even your word processor) or if you want a full Operating System so you can do everything yourself.

Personally I’ll always err to the latter, but I can see the former being very attractive, especially coupled to cheaper hardware and so called under-powered computers. That of course means under-powered for windows because even today the difference between something shoe-horned into a netbook (Windows XP) is much less flexible than Easy Peasy.

I also mean underpowered by today’s standard. Probably the best low-powered mobile computer – the Psion Series 5mx – trundled along with 16MB of combined storage and execution memory and a 32mhz processor. Yet the core functions on that device are still faster in real use than today’s netbooks and laptops.

And where would a 5mx fit into Google’s plan?


Google and the Psion S5mx

In Praise of the Psion Stylus

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

If there is one thing that marks me out as very old school it’s the stylus that I carry when out and about. For all the resistive touch screens (ie almost everything but the iPhone) on a multitude of devices i tend to use the built in stylus for about five minutes before reaching into my drawer of spare parts for one of the many pointers I have for the Psion 5mx (and similar machines).

Psion Stylus Two main reasons I still use it. First of all is the shape – with a triangular barrel as the main part gives your hand something to grip onto, and also means it won’t roll away when you put it down on a table.

The second is the length. At almost six inches long, it sits comfortably in the hand,just like a physical pen or pencil. This reduces the strain on your hand in prolonged use, makes it easier to navigate around a large touch screen, and it can easily sit in your hand while typing two handed on devices like the Nokia N97.

Sp yes, thank you to all the manufacturers there when they design small styli to fit in tiny spaces that are comfy for about five minutes – I’ll stick with a tried and tested British solution.

A Little Bit of GTD Tech For The Weekend?

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Over on All About Symbian, I’ve posted an article that talks about how I use GTD with the modern S60 smartphone. This was a question I was asked thanks to the 5800 video diary series that is now addressed in a full article.

The short answer is, I don’t. The S60 derived phones have an absolutely hopeless To-Do/List system in the calendaring application, and the regular calendar/agenda functions are poor at best.

As readers here (and party go-ers in SXSW) will know, I’m a big Filofax fan.


It’s disappointing when paper and pencil outgun silicon, and it’s made even more disappointing when you realise that in the Psion Series 3’s and 5’s, Symbian OS (then labelled EPOC) had the best Agenda application in the world.

The full dissection with a lively debate in the comments, can be found here.

Of Course Netbook Sales Are On The Rise

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Is it any wonder that sales of netbooks are on the rise? The Guardian posted this at the start of the week and I’ve had the tab open in Firefox since then to write about this.

The features race on the regular desktop market has been over for a while. The increases in CPU speed and memory don;t affect the average consumer any more. Storage is one area that is growing given the requirements of digital media, but really we should be teaching people to buy a new hard drive rather than a whole new desktop.

There will always be people that need extra power – gamers are one, and editing in video is another, but for normal people as long as it plays music and video, can browse the web, do their email and a touch of word processing, then it’s going to be sufficient for their needs. And there is little argument that netbooks can fulfil this role very nicely.

(The argument is whether Teklogix are right to sue over the genericisation of the name netbook – in my opinion they missed the boat as long ago as their reverse takeover of Psion).

The netbooks fit the requirements of many users; the price point (currently £150-£250 in the UK) is perfect in these cautious times; and the availability of an Operating System that most normal people trust (Windows XP) means there’s little reason for people to not buy them over a full scale laptop.

Now the market has spoken, will the manufacturers listen? I think in part they will, but I’d expect them to add in slightly larger screens, memory, etc to try and get the price back up closer to the £300 so they can make some sort of profit!

To be honest, I think they’d be better staying with the 8.9” screen models and bundling in a USB keyboard and mouse and a note about hooking it up to an external monitor for a full home PC system.

Just like I do.

Asus EEE 901 on the desk

The Asus EEE and Psion’s Influence

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Two little things around my Asus EEE PC show why it’s obvious that I really like this machine. The first is the solitary sticker on the case of the machine – the Moo Stickers along the battery spine don’t count. It’s the metallic badge of the Psion Series 3mx, probably the finest British PDA ever made, that sits proudly on the lid.

The second is the case that I carry the EE around in. It’s an old, battered, mix of hard ABS plastic covered in felt and canvas, and held my Psion Netbook for many a year, starting in early 2000 (I picked up the machine very early in the production run). It has always amused me that the ‘micro laptops’ that have sprung up in the last year have acquired the ‘netbook’ moniker. Psion machines were always far ahead of their time, and can still hold their own today in many respects. I remember my first O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, where I went through the entire gig using just the Psion Netbook and a Buffalo PCMCIA Wifi card for connectivity. Everyone loved the look of the little machine, and even though at that point it was a few years old, it still turned heads.

Just call me Mr Trend Setter…

Placing the 8 year old Netbook alongside the EEE 901 does show a much improved spec sheet (233mHz processor, 64Mb Ram, 640×480 256 colour screen, compared to 1.6gHz, 20Gb and 1024×600 16 million colour screen), but functionality there is little difference. The devices are doing the same job, a mix of email, online interaction, and word processings, and while there are many years between them, Yes, modern technology has more advantages (screen size, battery life and 3G connectivity spring to mind), and there is a certain march of progress, but the goals and aims of these devices have changed little.

The biggest change is that the modern netbooks are fully blow consumer operating systems. I’m running Ubuntu on the Asus (with the Netbook Remix) but it would be a simple matter to place Windows XP on board, Windows 7 was demoed to be running on them, and many a hardy soul has got Mac OS X running as well. Unlike the dedicated OS the Psion had, what we have now is a solution that does everything, that leverages thousands of developers, has tens of thousands of applications available, and puts real computing power in a mobile package.

Yes there will be times you need a laptop with grunt (eg video editing), but for most trips, the one or two nights away for a conference, or just something to sling in your bag when nipping out for a business coffee, the netbook genre is perfect.