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Psion to take on MS with notebook-style machines

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Psion is returning to the notebook market this week, years after it abandoned development of a brace of intriguing, but commercially unsuccessful, lightweights. This time around the company is scheduled to launch the netBook, announced earlier this year and aimed at the corporate market, plus an unexpected consumer version, the Series 7. Both machines are A4 with approximately full-sized keyboard and colour VGA display, and as with Psion's previous foray into this area they're effectively bigger implementations of the current Series 5 platform (a plausible explanation of where the Series 6 went would be welcome, by the way). The applications that come with Psion's EPOC OS are sufficiently functional to make this translation with relative ease, so it's not particularly difficult for Psion to split its range into pocket computers and larger versions that compete with sub-notebooks and CE devices. Psion claims that customer demand prompted its decision to ship the consumer Series 7 machine after all, and the company seems to be aiming squarely at Microsoft's CE. But CE has had a long, hard slog to establish itself so far, and it's still not absolutely clear what the market for CE products is. Psion could have trouble getting in there, and even if it does, may find there's little or no profit. The two new Psions will cost UKP 699 (ex tax) for the Series 7 and UKP 799 for the netBook. The netBook has a faster CPU, a 190MHz StrongARM, more RAM - 32 megabytes, includes a JVM and networking capabilities. There's no built-in JVM in the Series 7, the CPU is 100MHz, and it's stand-alone. It can run a JVM, but the fact that it's not specifically included suggests Psion's still having problems in getting Java to run reasonably on lower spec hardware. Register historical note: Psion's previous attempts at the notebook market were the MC400 and MC600. Both were A4-ish with mono LCD, and one ran the precursor to EPOC. The other, intended to deal with the market's PC mania (remember when people wouldn't buy stuff because they weren't PC compatible?) ran Dos. Like the Cambridge Z88, they were bought by a few enthusiasts and quantities of journalists, then quietly faded away. ®

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