No CE netBook, says Psion, but there is a netPad
Rumours of death of EPOC somewhat premature...
The Register's scepticism about the CE netBook has been amply justified; it does not exist, it might at some point exist, but it certainly does not exist, either now or this year. What does exist is an implementation of CE running on its sister machine, the netPad - but for various reasons this doesn't automatically mean a netBook version.
Raf Jezierski, director mobile computing, Psion-Teklogix, did a little bit of explanation and roadmapping for us earlier today, and a great deal of sense it made. The merger of the two companies left Psion-Teklogix as a multi-OS company, although the different prodeuct portfolios meant that the different OSes weren't necessarily multiple on particular platforms. But the company has CE and EPOC customers and htere's an inexorable logic to getting to the stage where, say, new devices come with a choice of CE or EPOC. And this is now the case with netPad.
According to Jezierski Psion-Teklogix has been running a trial of CE on netPad with various customers in North America and Europe, and it's now ready to roll. The netPad uses a ROM-based OS, but getting CE onto a netBook (which doesn't have a ROM OS, whereas the Series 7 does) is probably less trivial than just replacing the ROM. Jezierski certainly pitched it as more complicated than just taking the netPad implementation and offering it on Compact Flash, when we suggested that might be an option.
But he maintains that Psion-Teklogix offering CE is no big deal, and we agree with him. It only becomes a big deal if the company abandons EPOC. So we asked about that, and quite interesting the answers were.
Psion-Teklogix's OS roadmapping is still work in progress; Jezierski says it's important to offer a choice of two, and presuming one is CE, the choice of the second is based on two factors - cost, and "what do we have today?" Note, for those of you thinking it should be the other way around, that what Psion has today in the shape of EPOC has questions hanging over it.
Moving over to Symbian would be expensive for Psion because Symbian 7 and upwards doesn't have a UI for full VGA, which basically boils down to Symbian being in the mobile phone space right now, and Psion would have to invent the whole of the non-mobile Symbian space for itself, unless of course mobile phone devices started migrating over to the commercial-industrial arena with greater velocity than is happening now.
So moving the EPOC platforms into step with Symbian is an option, but possibly an expensive one. How about sticking with EPOC 5 and developing on that? This is also a possibility, and Jezierski pitches it as more sustainable than we might have thought. He gives the example of GPRS, recently added to EPOC, and although we were under the impression Bluetooth would never make it to EPOC, he's not so sure.
And the next netBook? "We haven't decided on it." But "in principle" Psion would be looking at a multiple OS device. Which does kind of suggest that if the hardware happens at all, then it'll be CE or EPOC/Symbian. In addition, it'd likely have a processor upgrade (not exactly rocket science that one), and the value of a CF slot (as opposed to a second PC Card) is being questioned. USB or Firewire? We wish we'd asked, but we bet you can't do that in EPOC 5. Or, come to think of it, Symbian. ®