With all the hype around the iPhone, Andrew Orlowski at The Register has decided that now is a good time to look back at the true pioneers in the PDA and mobile world. It was Psion, not Apple that laid the foundations for the mobile world we live in today.
Before the Newton was ever launched Psion had been selling PDAs.. but that isn’t all of the story.
As well as producing the 5mx (arguably the best PDA ever released, and in some ways more advanced than anything we have today) and turned down the chance to buy Palm.
They also developed the most widely used mobile operating system in the world ever, Symbian. And that’s where it all went wrong.
In a move that Palm would later copy, they split the operating system team away from the hardware people and spun them off into another company. Without the close links the company lost it’s way. A consumer division was set up looking at bright new ideas.. They turned down the iPod before Apple had even had the idea. (the Ipod team is now led by an ex Psion man), They Turned down a consumer GPS when nobody had consumer GPS units.. (and the company later became TomTom – and is led by another ex Psion director).
They canceled products that were nearly ready to go, the colour Bluetooth Revo would be the blogger’s tool of choice, doing what the new Palm Folio is going to do, but in 2001! They did UMPC size tablets in 2000 as well (running WinCE or Epoc)
They even had a micro laptop/PDA that would triple boot between Linux, WinCE and Epoc (Symbian 1.0) but those never made it into production either.
What finally killed them was an ill conceived joint venture with Motorola. Project Odin. Which going to be Motorola’s venture into the Smartphone market. And when Motorola pulled out, the Consumer division died with it. Psion retreated into a niche corporate manufacturer and counted the money that they made from Symbian… and the mobile world has been much poorer without them.
Source: The Register