Psion PSectionIt's almost all Symbian now
By Ernest Lilley
March 2001, issue 38
In the face of Psion's flagging commitment to the PDA space, I expect I'll be talking a lot more about Symbian, the industry group that promotes Psion's OS, no longer EPOC 5, but now Symbian 6, and the use of reference design standards and less about what's new at Psion. Their attitude seems to be, "We had some clever designsÉbut that's in the past. Nobody is willing to pay for really good PDAs anymore, and integrating with the desktop space, owned by Microsoft, is just too hard." So it goes. Of course, with reports of battery failures in a significant number of Revos coming in, and the general discontent over the Revo's shortcomings, they have to be feeling burned by their last attempt to fight back the teeming hordes of Palms and Pocket PCs. Ironically, many users of Psion devices still don't agree that their marquee should be out of fashion, since the entire line still provides pocketable data entry and retrieval better than anyone else around. In my humble opinion, anyway.
Nokia 9210 Communicator
Almost without fail, when I take out my Psion Series 5mx to use, someone asks if I can access the web with it, or if it has a cell phone built in. Although the IR travel modem and IR linkages to a few cell phones work fairly well, the answer to these questions is basically "no." The Nokia 9210 allows you to say "yes," but not in the US for the foreseeable future. In all likelihood, a Crystal design developed with some partner is the future of the Psion Series 5 as well.
Although several firms, including Psion, are getting Quartz reference standard devices ready for market, only Nokia has a "Crystal" device ready to go. Like all Symbian standard devices, the 9210 runs the EPOC 32 OS, so their file formats are compatible with Psion's other devices, while RTF and Microsoft format haven't been ignored. Not only can it decipher Word and Excel, but it will receive just about any kind of email you can think of and is compatible with Lotus Notes.
The Nokia 9210 is almost everything in one package. It has a 640x200 pixel 4096 color display, an "EGSM" 900/1800 dual band cell phone, with high speed internet access at up to 43.2 Kbps (HSCSD), a Memory Card slot (MultiMediaCard standard) and flexible connectivity with IrDA, Ir-TranP, Cable (DLR-2L). What it doesn't have is either a touch screen or MP3 capability, though it will play a WAV file.
I really wanted to play with a 9210, and Pekka Isosomppi, Nokia's Communications Officer (a title I always expect to come with a Starship attached) promised me I could... if I could come to Finland to do so, or wait for CeBIT in Germany this March. I'll bring more pictures back from Germany and a first hand report. In the meantime, both Sanyo and Psion are showing Quartz pen-based devices. Sanyo came out first on October 3rd, 2000 the CEATEC JAPAN Show. The device was developed by Sanyo and Phoenix Technologies Ltd., a name you are probably familiar with from PC BIOS messages, which they have been heavily involved with. Sanyo's Communicator features wireless Internet access, a Personal Information Manager (PIM), supports the Bluetooth wireless protocol, and supports USB peripherals.
Toward the end of October, Psion was showing off the fruits of Project Odin, the joint Psion-Motorola initiative, at Comdex in Las Vegas. The first quartz product from the collaboration will be the Accompli 003, a tri-band, GPRS and GSM communicator. In accordance with the Quartz standard, the device will sport a Ú VGA screen, 256 colors, MultiMedia Card (MMC) and Bluetooth for connectivity, and MP3 audio and MPEG-4 video standards. Its OS version is expected to be Symbian's 6. The device's Psion lineage is also evident in the choice of a 150MHz ARM processor, rather than on Motorola's own M-Core technology. My guess is that there will be changes as these two go further down the road together.
Psion Software Updates
While they may not be planning to revamp their line of handheld devices, Psion has been cleaning up its software and there are a number of new downloads available at http://www. psion.com/downloads.
Of the most critical ones, two offer compatibility with Windows 2000, and the third is a solution to my most galling synchronization problem, entry duplication. Note that 2.3.2 is a beta version and the final version is still due for release. Reports from the field are mixed, but aside from its insistence that I first uninstall my previous version completely before it would install, I've had no trouble with it. Evidentially there are still folks who just can't get it to run on their Win 2000 machines. Here are the downloads:
PsiWin 2.3.2 (full version) is an Open Candidate of the latest version of PsiWin with support for Windows and Office 2000. A Beta patch is also available for the correction of one known issue. The PsiWin 2.3.2 update is for Windows 2000 only. Installing this Beta Patch will correct a known connectivity issue. The Synchronization Upgrade improves synchronization between your PC and the Contacts application on the Series 5. It eliminates the appearance of duplicate entries that occasionally appeared on some machines.
The Seduction of Juha Christensen
Last March Microsoft hired Symbian VP Juha Christensen away to head up its wireless marketing. As Symbian's CEO Colly Myers told The Register at the time, "We've put him on gardening leave for six months and say, well in six months our products will be on the market and the world will have moved on." Which was to say that he couldn't compete with them until the time was up. Microsoft tried to get around the limit, but in May the British High Court enforced the terms and Christensen was left to tend roses until September 12th.
I'm not generally big on conspiracies and skullduggery, but I was amused by Christensen's first Microsoft press conference: From www.microsoft.com/presspass/ events/mobilephone/10-05webcast.asp
Ben Waldman: (President of Microsofts's Mobile Devices Division)... "I'd like to introduce our new Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Mobility, Juha Christensen, formerly Executive Vice President of (inaudible) of course as many of you know. So, Juha?
Juha Christensen: I'm not going to really say a lot here today. I'm only two days into the job here, so I'm still in the sort of dazed and confused stage where I'm learning all the aliases, all the new axioms that are specific to Microsoft. But I just wanted to come up here and welcome you. It is nice to see that there's a lot of familiar faces here among the, I'd say about 200 people here in the room. I look very much forward to continuing to work with a lot of you. A lot of you will know that I have been in (inaudible) a bit surprised about me actually moving on to this next opportunity."
The Register now refers to Microsoft as "(inaudible)" in articles about Symbian. -
For comments, email Ernest Lilley.
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