Skip to main content

If A Psion Series 5 Existed Today Would You Own One?


This is the Psion Series 5, a handheld computer which was the ultimate expression of Psion's vision for a PDA. Launched in 1997, long before smartphones were a thing and a whole decade before the iPhone, Psion built a machine which focused on some very specific use cases, and then delivered on them brilliantly.

It turned out that Psion was fighting a losing battle though, customers wanted vertical screens and pocketable devices like those from Palm. When Palm launched the impossibly small Palm V the battle between keyboards and pen was over. Touchscreens would ultimately triumph and today it's possible to trace a design heritage between just about every smartphone and the Palm V.

The keyboard / landscape design didn't die easily. Nokia built a line of Communicator devices around Symbian (which was the updated version of the Psion's EPOC operating system) whilst HTC built a number of devices similar in concept for its carrier partners, most famously the HTC Universal.

What if the Psion 5 concept hadn't died and had enjoyed the same development as the smartphone over the last decade. What would it look like? Would you still buy one.

I'd imagine that a 2017 Psion 5 would be reasonably slim, whilst still retaining its keyboard design. The 5.6" display would probably have grown to 1080p and have gained many colours, as opposed to the 16 greyscales of the original.

When closed an e-ink screen would display caller information, notifications and messages; whilst microphones and speakers would allow you to take calls without opening the clamshell. Wifi and Bluetooth would be onboard and the touchscreen would have transitioned from resistive to capacitive, but retaining the pen.

Battery life would be limited, but a USB-C power port would allow fast charging and support host capabilities to connect external keyboard, screen and mouse.

Putting all of that engineering into a thin clamshell body wouldn't be cheap - think pricing at the top of the premium smartphone market. The last question would be which platform would the modern Psion run? Given the brick wall Symbian ran into with development it would be unlikely to have survived any better for a modern Psion 5. Windows Mobile doesn't have the landscape capabilities to make this form factor work and Windows 10 for ARM is too far in the future.

Which leaves Android. And that, I think, would be the major sticking point for Psion fans of yesteryear, who valued simple, fast and relatively static design to the orgy of features that has always defined Android. I imagine most Psion users have moved quite comfortably into the iPhone world.

So given the future of the Psion outlined here, would you own one? Or has the clamshell really had its day?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

F1: Robert Kubica Impresses In Renault Test Run

The car may be old but its the performance of the driver that's the story here. Robert Kubica returned to F1, after a fashion, earlier this week with an extensive test run in a 2012 Lotus Renault F1 car at Valencia.
The age of the car and the circuit were likely determined by F1's current rules which ban testing, but the reason for Kubica being in the car is far more interesting. Considered by many to be a potential World Champion and certainly one of the fastest drivers of his generation, Kubica's F1 career seemed to be over after a 2011 crash whilst driving in the Rally of Andora. His Skoda Fabia was penetrated by a guardrail in the high speed accident partially severing his right arm.
Up until last year Kubica has been competing in rallying, with the expectation that the limited movement in his repaired arm would prohibit a return to single seater racing.
So this week's test is both interesting and confusing. Interesting because Kubica completed 115 laps of the ret…

F1: Robert Kubica's Williams Test Asks More Questions Than It Answers

Comparing driver's times at a tyre evaluation test like last week's Abu Dhabi event is difficult at the best of times, but when trying to assess the performance of a driver who has been out of the sport for six years, that difficulty level is raised even higher.
On the face of it Robert Kubica's test for Williams was a success. Fastest of the three Williams drivers present the headlines look promising. However, taking into consideration the different tyres used to set those times muddies the water considerably.
Kubica ran a three lap qualifying simulation on the new 'hyper-soft' tyre - which should have given him a two-second advantage. Correcting for tyres it would appear that Kubica was significantly slower than Sergei Sorotkin - who was on the harder 'soft' tyre - and marginally quicker than Lance Stroll, the team's only contracted driver.

Stroll's family fortune currently funds Williams, so there' no chance that he will be anywhere but in a…

Panos Panay's Defence Of Microsoft Surface Hardware Sounds Eerily Familiar

This weekend I went out with my ten year old daughter to select a laptop for her school year beginning in January. The schools requirements are quite specific, requiring a Windows 10 device, with a preference for a touchscreen and a stylus. She chose a Surface Pro, after trying a large number of different options. Having seen the way I use my own Surface Pro - and tried it herself there was only ever going to be two options - and the other was a Surface Laptop.
I tell you this so that you understand I am a buyer of Microsoft's products through choice, not compulsion. I'm on my third Surface device now. 
So when Panos Panay dismissed reports of the death of the Surface hardware line, I was very interested to see exactly how strong these denials were. Especially how they reflect what has gone before. To whit: Windows 10 Mobile.
Panay claimed that Microsoft is in hardware for the long haul. Almost exactly mirroring the words of Terry Myerson, when he claimed Windows Mobile was g…