Sunday, 22 February 2009

That NETBOOK trade mark

I have been a great fan of all things Psion for years. My Series 5mx has been repaired more times that I care to think about, often necessitated after a bad experience with gravity - it looks pretty robust, but the screen display generally stops working after making contact with a hard surface. Now the terminals for the back-up battery have broken, and given that I haven't been able to get it talk to a modern infra-red enabled phone for several years now I am retiring it. However, I am convinced that it remains one of the best examples of that variation on Gresham's Law: mediocre technology drives good technology out of circulation.

I also love the Wavefinder that converted my computer into a digital radio, the best part of ten years ago. It also lit up in attractive colours, aolthough reception was pretty unreliable.

Like with VHS, we have to accept Windows Mobile on our handheld devices (and indeed Windows on our personal computers - so much software is, regrettably, Windows-only. And lawyers, and no doubt others, have to live with Word as a de facto standard for word processing). At least Psion bequeathed the Symbian operating system to the world, and that's a valuable legacy.

Before they moved out of consumer products - in fact, as long ago as 1996 - Psion also made a device that they ill-advisedly called the Netbook (and which, also perhaps ill-advisedly, ran Windows CE). They registered trade marks for it, though I don't quite see how they got that round the relevant registrars - after all, it's phonetically very close to "notebook", and alludes to the Internet, which was well-enough known by the time the product was on the market and to which the device gave access. So, a pretty weak brand to start with.

Yesterday I found myself in the unusual position of being in an office supplies emporium. (I realised I didn't know quite what to call it - not a shop, because it was too big, but "store" is American usage, and "superstore" doesn't seem right at all.) I was looking for a scanner. There was a display of "netbooks", and I suddenly understood the controversy that I had been reading about. (What a sheltered life I must lead.) There were products from Asus, Acer, Dell, Toshiba and perhaps others, all what I would call - in my ignorance - sub-notebooks, or perhaps "ultra-portables".

The vociferous lobby that wants the word "netbook" to be free for all to use argues that Psion hasn't used the name since it stopped making its netbook computer in 2003. However, it looks as i f the Netbook computer was replaced by the Netbook Pro computer, and as Psion Teklogix as they now are argue in a statement available from their site (here is the link) they continue to supply accessories and to service the things. There are several for sale on Ebay, ooffered by American sellers. Sadly, I find myself unconvinced, the more so because it's such a weak-looking trade mark to start with. Why couldn't they just have kept making them in the first place? I'd have one to replace the 5mx.

1 comment:

Peter Lykkegaard said...

I guess Psion stopped producing Netbook Pro as it was a little bit expensive for it's own good


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