Psion produces netBook refresh, OS upgrade

Small but perfectly-formed twiddle indicates it's still alive

Psion's highly-regarded but barely heard of netBook has been updated - not a lot, but it shows it's not dead. The netBook, for new readers, is a handy little EPOC 5 box with VGA colour screen, PC Card slot and very good battery life. It is not cheap, but it's useful for people who need something with instant on and a decent keyboard that they can tote around.

And its development cycle makes watching paint dry look like a plausible spectator sport. As a case in point, the current refresh is not entirely unrelated to the last update, which we mentioned back in May. The new version comes with that very OS, which was found to be unacceptably buggy, and was pulled from the site, replaced by a message saying it'd be back by the middle of August.

Harvey Roberts, product marketing manager for the netBook, tells us today that build 158 is now finished, but they've got a server issue they hope to fix over the weekend, and with a bit of luck it'll go up at the partners site on Monday. Update: And as if by magic, the servers got fixed and I'm downloading it now. For access, you need to register as a Psion-Teklogix partner, which is free, and which you can do here.

Aside from build 158, the salient feature of the new version of the netBook is that it's been rejigged to allow higher powered PC Cards to run. Specifically, Roberts cites the Globetrotter GPRS and Psion ISDN cards. 158 also supports Orinoco and Cisco Aironet wireless cards, but these don't need the extra power of the new rev.

So actually the old box works perfectly well if you're prepared to use a WLAN to connect to ISDN, and IRDA for GPRS via a handset. The Register therefore immediately desisted from trying to scrounge one of the new review units, but then afterwards wondered why on earth there werenew review units. Keep your eyes skinned for less scrupulous pubs running reviews that spend 1,500 words saying "you can stick a GPRS card in it now."

And future revs? There is of course no categorical statement that there will be a major new rev of the netBook, but Roberts says Psion is looking at various projects that might follow on, or use some aspects of the beast. Which beats 'no comment.' Psion certainly has a small but ongoing customer base for the netBook, and there a couple of things that could be usefully seen to. It is, for example, utterly unable to run a Bluetooth card, as all such cards in existence require some level of support from the OS, and EPOC 5 hasn't got it. And as the rest of the world is now on Symbian 7.x. Then there's the screen size and resolution - but let's not get over-excited. ®