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Psion to launch WinCE-based netBook?

There's a horrible underlying logic. Pass the Linux, Alice...

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Fresh from executing a long-overdue netBook retread, Psion is poised for full-scale betrayal* by switching the machine over to Windows CE - or so, at least, claims a report in the Australian Financial Review. The piece, which cites "a source briefed by the company," definitely says "switch" rather than 'introduce a new model based on,' and that a new model capable of running CE will be out in the fourth quarter.

We at The Register however suspect there may be an element of 'send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance' about this one. The netBook and the netPad both come within the bailiwick of Psion-Teklogix, which currently offers a somewhat eclectic mix of handheld computers, industrial terminals and seriously weird stuff running EPOC, CE and - egad - even Windows 95. This little lot, no matter how much Psion-Teklogix cares to bash on about the advantages of offering customers choice, really does have to be updated and tidied up. And provided the company proposes to persist with products in the netBook/netPad form factors, it does not take a rocket scientist to deduce it's going to produce versions running CE.

That however does not necessarily mean the end for Psion's old machines, which in addition to the netBook and netPad include the Workabouts you can see down at the bottom of the Teklogix product page. The company has customers for these, and will at least need to support them, and it has just retooled the netBook motherboard to take GPRS and ISDN cards. Not, of course, that one would be in the slightest bit surprised if that redesign also made it easier for the netBook to run CE; the netBook OS has after all been loadable right from the start.

The big question, however, arises over the future of Psion's own software development. The company can't stick with EPOC 5 forever, but Symbian, the offspring of that particular OS, is haring off in other directions. Development action for Symbian is largely (and perfectly reasonably) in the mobile phone area, and so if Psion wants a stream of industrial/commercial and general purpose PDA apps for Symbian/EPOC devices it's largely going to have to maintain it itself. Whereas there are plenty of CE, or even NT/XP embedded, apps, so go figure. The odd Symbian-based PDA-class devices that have launched, meanwhile, have so far failed to hit the spot, and this simply reinforces the fact that the action is in mobile phones.

So a lingering death rather than termination by Christmas? Well, possibly, but if a version running an MS OS was introduced, there would be a continuing hardware line that would at least provide an opportunity for a more modern Symbian OS implementation to be maintained at fairly low cost. One can but hope.

On related matters The Register's netBook-based exercise in retro-computing is still going swimmingly, and helpful readers have pointed out that Series 7 users wanting to use the new version of the OS can try an upgrade to a netBook ROM from Expansys or from POSLtd.

Having done so well with netBook 802.11b support The Register also decided to spring for a Nokia 7650 and essay GPRS. Reckless, it appears. So if anybody has a working configuration that'll connect a 7650, netBook, Series 5 or similar via Vodafone UK GPRS we'd appreciate it. There currently seem to be numerous help documents available applying to Vodafone subs across Europe, but as far as we can see Vodafone UK is currently snoozing behind the shield of its splendidly bust web site, offering splendidly undownloadable software. ®

* This would not of course be the first great betrayal. Remember the MC600?

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