Canadian Psion operation contributes to handheld entry

Another handheld computer aimed at mobile business users is about to hit the market, one with a Canadian heritage.

Psion Teklogix Inc. announced Thursday that its US$1,500 Netbook Pro mini-laptop will start shipping at the end of the

month, targeted at salesmen and field workers who need a light device with a keyboard and a moderate-sized screen.

“”We believe we’ve created a device that will be very appealing to the enterprise because it combines the virtues of a laptop and a PDA,”” said Dan Schachtler, Psion Teklogix’s director of product management.

The 1,100 gram (2.95 lb.) Windows CE unit was designed in Britain and Canada, where Psion’s Teklogix mobile device division is headquartered. Psion PLC bought Teklogix in 2000.

While it is built on the chassis of Psion’s Series 7 computer, no longer in production, there have been significant upgrades in power. The Netbook Pro is powered by a 400 Mhz Intel ARM processor (versus 133 Mhz for the Series 7), 128 MB of memory, and has an 8.5-INCH SVGA touch screen, a 184 mm wide keyboard and a USB 1.1 port. It has eight hours of battery time.

Storage and wireless capabilities are handled by flash memory, PC Card, Secure Digital and Compact Flash slots.

Corporations will appreciate that the Netbook’s operating system is Windows CE, which will make it easier to develop or extend applications to it, said Schachtler. Psion is also offering a free software development kit to buyers.

It’s not a consumer device, he stressed, a market Psion abandoned two years ago. Distribution will be through resellers of Psion’s handhelds aimed at wireless warehouse workers, as well as wireless software integrators such as Sona Innovations Inc. of Toronto.

Sona has reworked an asset tracker and field service applications it has written for smaller handhelds to work on the Netbook and sees great potential. John Bush, the company’s president, said a Canadian engineering firm he wouldn’t identify is piloting the device and one of its applications.

“”We’ve actually re-opened up some opportunities because of the Netbook Pro,”” he said.

“”The value proposition of the platform is solid,”” said personal and mobile computing analyst Rob Enderle, head of the Enderle Group of San Jose, Calif. He noted that NEC makes a similar sized unit, the MobilePro 9000.

“”It’s always looked good on paper.””

Psion’s challenge will be to get its hardware resellers and software integrators to do the selling, he said.


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