We will now see the real face of the enemy.
What will "Do No Evil" do to an Android based real competitor to the Chromebook?
Where did that big bag of popcorn go? On a second thought it will probably take a rather small bag.
Bill Clinton was still US President when the last pocket computer that you could touch type on came out. Back then, almost everyone accessed the internet at home on a dialup modem, not broadband, and no phone yet sported a colour screen or a camera. It was a different era. But after 17 years, a Psion 5-style machine is back, …
If it runs Android, why would Google care if you bought it in place of a Chromebook?
And for that matter, would ChromeOS work on this Gemini hardware for the educational market?
(A slightly larger device, effectively a clamshell Newton with keyboard, was made by Apple but only sold to schools. Name escapes me ATM)
What do you suspect they will do?
Plant a virus in Android that activates on detecting a Gemini? Launch a military strike on the Gemini offices?
Google already exist in a market where other Android devices compete with them. They seem happy about it and aren't short on profits. What makes this any different?
The Blackberry is only mentioned in passing here, but isn't that almost what this device is? It's a large phone running Android with cellular connectivity and a physical QWERTY keyboard... sounds a LOT like a BB to me.
I know a lot of people who miss their hardware keyboards and would probably consider this, especially at its modest current price, for a phone. I suspect I would benefit for those times I need to RDP/SSH from the road.
Please don't insult the Psion keyboards by saying they're just like a Blackberry. The keyboard on this is nothing like those. (I've owned Psions & Blackberrys, so speak from experience)
I can imagine a lot of network engineers wanting one of these to logon to network devices console's when things have gone TITSUP.
"I can imagine a lot of network engineers wanting one of these to logon to network devices console's when things have gone TITSUP."
Indeed, but looking more closely at the symbol placings on that keyboard, it looks like it's aimed at journalists, not techies. I might be able to write an article in the field, but I might not be able to rewrite a perl script to fix an oncall alert, while down the pub with mates (which I did with Nokia keyboard phones).
"Please don't insult the Psion keyboards by saying they're just like a Blackberry."
The original keyboard most definitely wasn't but to be honest I also have some doubts about this new model. Also because the whole emphasis seems to be focused on the keyboard and hardware, but that alone does not make a good PDA.
It does provide one heck of a system though. I actually used it to wrote up 70% of a report which had to be finished in the weekend (because of quality tests held at the customers place) while riding in the train. That thumping sound when I slowly (but steadily) got used to the smaller size and actually started using 4 - 6 fingers to type... It was amazing.
But let's be honest: a netbook can do that too these days. The main reason why Psion was awesome was because it was functional as heck. Straight to the point, no confusing riff raff.
And well, I too share some concerns which people have raised over this device. I mean, the hardware looks good and all, but in the end it's all about functionality. And when I read comments like these:
"Two great innovations make Gemini a successor to the Psion: the keyboard and the hinge."
I can't help have some doubts too. Because.. The hinge was important on the Psion 5mx but no one seems to stop to think why that was so. Because the keyboard actually folded out. It slided across the bottom and slided out of the casing which gave you a lot more space to type, as well as the extra "button bar" below the screen for quick and easy access to most important applications.
When you look at the screenshots of the Gemini you'll notice that it really is just a regular clamshell model. There is no extra space, there is no sliding keyboard, it's merely a 2 piece device which can fold shut. It has a hinge, but in all honesty: so does my Toshiba Portege.
But bottom line: the hardware can be awesome, but in the end its the functionality of the system which counts. And I'm a little puzzled that hardly anyone seems to pay any attention to that.
How will the PDA functionality differ from your common Android device, also considering that this thing was designed for Android. That's the part I'm interested in yet which no one seems willing to address.
... it's also that you can probably run an actual operating system and don't have to resort to impossible to secure systems like Android, IOS and the likes.
You can just strip down the operating system to whatever you need and even use that device as a terminal. In fact since you have a decent keyboard, you can even enter secure keys for flash encryption.
Blackberry didn't invent the physical keyboard on mobile devices. Before Blackberry, Nokia launched their successful 9000 series which continued all the way up until the Nokia E7.
Blackberry released their first device in 1999, there were countless other devices with a QWERTY keyboard already, which includes Psions.
Now, back to the Psion Gemini, I can't wait. I have a Psion 3mx and a 5mx and love them both. People are tired of having to carry a tablet with them WITH extra accessories like a bluetooth keyboard to be able to write comfortably. I'm honestly surprised netbooks died out. Tablets are great little couch potato machines, but people like me who actually need to write a lot were stuck either going the route of an ultraportable laptopl (I used the MacBook air), or a tablet + accessories.
If they market the Gemini more towards business users, or users who need to write a lot (emails, bloggers, writers) I think it'll catch on. There's obviously still a market for such things, as a few similar products have already been released and are in the works.
...the general public has been fooled into "bigger numbers are better".
I think you're right. 4K TV's for example. Suddenly we've gone from talking about horizontal lines (720p, 1080p, even analogue 576i, 288p and so on) to vertical lines, because... well, it's 4 times bigger, innit. I'll stick with my 2K 1080p screen for now.
In this instance, I think I could justify an improper fraction.
We all know what a 16:9 screen is. An 18:9 screen is obviously wider.
It's not IMMEDIATELY obvious that a 2:1 screen is wider than a 16:9 screen for the layman, however.
People don't handle ratios well. I've had any number of arguments over this, and also that it's measured by screen diagonal.
No, a 65" 4:3 smartboard is NOT the same as a 65" 16:9 touchscreen. In fact, you lose quite a bit of height and it looks tiny and stupid in comparison.
So the entire point of the new device - the keyboard - wasn't there, doesn't exist in even the only demo unit? But you saw a HINGE? Wow!
It's sounding much like the Vega scam that some of the same guys are involved with.
And this is the THIRD story (if you count the "pre-announcement" vote thing). I'm disappointed, Reg, that you've got suckered into pushing this so hard so early.
At the moment, it's a mini Android smartphone, the like of which there are thousands.
The Reg has featured this device because their readers have been expressing a desire in such a device for years.
The hinge was a crucial part of the original Psion device - the Reg readers who used it know why - and not just a small detail.
This Gemini is still being crowdfunded, so I'm not surprised they haven't finalised the keyboard, which will be the hardest part to get right. Prototype, test, repeat. They will, but hardware development takes time when you're doing more than just assembling off the shelf parts from ODMs. There is no point in them showing off a V.0.6 keyboard.
Speaking of which, most other phones at MWC are boring oblongs, much like the one you probably own. The Gemini is interesting.
At one point I owned about 10 Psion Series 5MX's.
I know what they are.
I also know that the history of crowdfunding something that doesn't exist in even prototype form is why they have to crowdfund rather than seek investors - because NOBODY else but fanatics under the illusion of hype will touch them.
> they have to crowdfund rather than seek investors - because NOBODY else but fanatics under the illusion of hype will touch them.
Investors will want to make lots of money on a successful product, in part to cover the losses they make backing unsuccessful products.
You're correct in that vocal enthusiasm doesn't necessarily translate into high sales. In fact I commented here a couple of weeks back (before any Gemini announcements) about the idea of crowdfunding the Psion-style keyboard "that many Reg readers keep telling us they want". [I wrote it in the context of an industry wide modular system akin to Moto Mods. Moto Mods are a proprietary magnetic physical connector built atop the open Greybus electronic standard. It seemed to me that it would be cheaper to crowdfund a snap-on keyboard than it would an entire pocket computer]
"I'm not surprised they haven't finalised the keyboard, which will be the hardest part to get right."
This is being designed by the original Psion designer. The original keyboard was one of the features that earned praise (never having used one I can't confirm its quality). So why should it be a problem to get right?
> So why should it be a problem to get [this new keyboard] right?
It's not a total replica of the old keyboard - it uses a magnetically sprung mechanism, just for one example of a difference. Then there is the process of refining the manufacturing once the design is nearly finalised.
Good hardware can be a time consuming process to get to market, and there is nothing to be gained from assuming otherwise.
The keyboard on the series 5 was a joy to use, fast, precise and tactile. No need to do anything but mimic that entirely. Also the way the 5 folded was actually better than this device shows... the keyboard slid out forwards of the original case line neatly counterbalancing the screen which sloped backwards a bit.
Some complained of it tipping, frankly I never had that experience, maybe to do with just how hard or sensible you were with the space key
I used to use a series 5 in Microsoft mobile devices division (thought I would be the outsider a bit) only to find that half the other guys in the meeting were ALSO using them - and all of them Microsoft guys with pocket PCs - and all of whom wanted a keyboard!
I attended a meeting with Microsoft's mobile team in Seattle in 1999 or thereabouts. When I arrived, I unloaded my Macintosh PowerBook and Psion 5mx and set them up on the desk in front of me. I looked up and saw I was being looked at with a degree of distaste, at which point I said "Ah - sorry about that - I shouldn't really have come here with a Mac, should I?" To which they responded - "We don't mind the Mac - but we really don't like the Psion..."
"So the entire point of the new device - the keyboard - wasn't there, doesn't exist in even the only demo unit? But you saw a HINGE? Wow!"
You've clearly never played with an old Psion device. You could spend hours* just opening and closing a Revo, constantly being amazed that someone could think up and make something so complicated yet elegant.
* Sat bored in meetings while everyone else was impressed at all the notes you kept taking.
Not sure it's quite a scam - more like the usual Sinclairesque business model that eventually gave painful birth to the Spectrum and QL, both in forms not quite implied by the initial advertising. It might still deliver, but it will be very late. So typical Sinclair really.
I always think with Indiegogo and Kickstarter that any pledge is a 50-50 punt on getting anything at all, so I've only ever pledged amounts that it wouldn't kill me to lose.
I would have backed that project already if it was more like a Nokia E7 or Nokia N950.
Basically the screen facing the other way so that the device can be used as a smartphone when closed.
Then again with such a large battery it would not be practical I guess. That would be a different device altogether. I've noticed a few other people making the same observation. Another solution would the dual screen design on the Nokia E95 and other communicators. Right now the Gemini is neither a smartphone nor a laptop, it truly is a PDA.
As it is, I'm still hesitating...
That's a valid point - even a small monochrome display on the outside would allow the user to see the number of an incoming call before answering.
One solution would be to use this Gemini with that Sony device that clips to a shirt pocket. It's a small Bluetooth device with small display, and is held to the ear like a mobile phone - but it also has a 3.5mm jack for a normal wired headset. It is also a standalone MP3 player and FM radio.
It gets scratched and damaged. Then some egit wants to make the touch screen capable of making or answering a call so it suddenly needs a lock button which invariably can manage to be activated when it is in the pocket.
Nope, I have both flip and and clamshell phones I do NOT and will NOT have a touch screen or chocolate bar phone because they are a pain in the bum.
The idea of the screen inside and a fold is entirely satisfactory, Assume they will include an answer when you open the device option and a hang up when you close it. that is brilliant and enough
I guess a common scenario will be the user wanting to take/make voice calls whilst the Gemini is in its 'open laptop's position, so that the user can take notes or refer to information during the call. If so, then a wired or Bluetooth headset will be a given anyways.
Such a Bluetooth earpiece could be designed to 'dock' with the Gemini using its USB-C port, sitting flush when not in use.
Having been burnt by the Jolla Tablet project on Indiegogo, I think I'll sit this one out.
I've had less bad experiences with Kickstarter. Is that just luck? Or is there some intrinsic difference between the crowdfunding platforms that makes one more likely to deliver than the other? (And I mean "deliver products to the funder" rather than "deliver cash to the fundee".)
> I've had less bad experiences with Kickstarter. Is that just luck?
I can't speak about you specifically, but there has been research that indicates some individuals will consistently buy products or systems that fail in the market (thus never pick up 3rd party developer support, and lose vendor support), even if they are technically superior.
Ha! I used to work with someone who was a tremendously accurate belwether for technologies that didn't work. I think he and a colleague of his's finest hour was when they evaluated two emulation libraries for something. One existed (and was, admittedly, a bit ugly on a number of levels), one had been promised real soon now but there wasn't anything we could see. By cunning belief in everything they had been told and by not weighting 'actually existing' very high on their scoring system, they managed to choose that one which was due in 3 months.
The project was (correctly) canned anyway, and I was amused two years later to get a call from the company that produced the one they had chosen saying that it was out now and were we still interested?
I still have a Psion 3a, which sort-of works - the screen connector has become highly dodgy - that was manufactured in the early '90s. Amazing piece of design and technology. For the replaceable rechargeable battery alone it is tempting.
I want one of these. I really really do.
But not one of the first ones out the door.
If there was a way to back it, so that it has a better chance of succeeding, but not be obliged to accept the version 1.0, I would.
I know what you mean. Despite having been run over - twice - my 3a is still working (even if the hinge has now broken irreperably). I'm considering whether I want to take the risk of having something that will sit unused in a drawer forever. But then if this fills the gaps I just might be able to get away with an iPhone SE if I do that, which would mean I get my headphone socket back.
But ah, I have so many fond memories of the Psion as a full time device :)
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I wonder about £600. For about £100 you can get a win 10 tablet, 8 inch or 10 inch. Then you can pair it with a bluetooth folding keyboard. Yes, not as elegant or as self contained. But a lot more ergonomic. Admittedly it is hard to put Linux on these machines, owing to the 32bit/64bit boot issue. But if you want something which is very easy to carry in a briefcase or shoulder bag, and a lot easier to type on... For one sixth of the price? For that matter you can also put it in a keyboard case combination. I have a Linx 8 inch which I did that with, and it works very well.
Fantastic idea, and I absolutely want one, but from where they are now to shipping in November 2017 isn't a plan, it's a pipe dream.
They plan to use an off the shelf PCB and display, and "concentrate on the plastic and metal work". Doing this would give them a leg up on certification etc but it won't mean they're able to deliver by November this year from where they are. Just getting a keyboard out of the door in that time would be good going. How many design iterations can they get through before November? I realise they have a working prototype, but even off the shelf components have a habit of doing strange things when combined...
If they had a realistic plan that I could believe, I'd back them but as it is I think they're being way too optimistic on timescales. I've seen too many kickstarter and indiegogos fail for exactly that reason, which then burns funds and leaves backers with nothing.
I really hope I'm wrong, in which case I'll happily shell out for the full price version.
@Dave126 (no relation) "It would be nice if the Reg commissioned a guest article about Product Design and hardware development. Firstly, it would be an interesting diversion, and secondly it would dispel a few oft-repeated myths."
That's actually a really good idea. Something along the lines of "So you have an idea for a world-changing technology product? Here's the process you will go through to take it from fever-dream to boxed product sitting on customers' desks", with guidance as to timelines, typical partners (fundraising, manufacturing, design, certification, distribution...)
I'd read that.
Yes - the hardware design was quite clever, especially the hinge and keyboard design, but the manufacturing quality was iffy so they broke. What made the Psions (3 and 5 series) so great was the software - particularly the applications, and the seamless way they all worked together. As an example, even now none of the calendar apps I use allow you to put in an appointment without a time in the way the Psion did; this was ideal when you planned to do something "in the afternoon" but not sure when - with the Psion you could place it the right place in the day without being precise about the timing, which you could add later when you'd agreed the details. To-do items (from your to-do lists) could optionally be displayed on the calendar pages on the relevant day - you could choose where - and would keep rolling forward each day until completed. It all worked so smoothly and cleanly it was a a delight. I thought at the time that Psion had licensed their software to a manufacturer good at making reliable hardware (Sonyt, Casio...) and with worldwide reach, they'd have had a lot more success.
To me this latest idea is pointless as it's based on Android or a LInux distro - which as a techie I like but is never going to be the seamless, user-friendly environment suitable for a PDA.
What would have been great about 10 years ago would be a Psion 5 updated with a modern colour screen, wifi and USB instead of the serial interface they had. Even now, that would be an incredibly attractive tool.
This reflects my feelings; the Psion worked well because of the combination of hardware and software. Producing a modern version of the hardware alone isn't the main part of the task.
There's a System 3 emulator that escaped from Psion beach in the day for DOS compatibles; you could DOSBox away the problem if only needs hadn't changed. But now the first thing somebody is going to ask for is email, then the ability to edit those Word documents and Excel spreadsheets that he keeps getting by email, then why not throw a browser on, then please just show a normal desktop. So I don't really think you could recapture what the device was.
Those were my thoughts exactly. I don't just want a Psion lookalike running Android, I want the software too, but as there is no mention of them developing Apps for Android what is the deal. Are they going to give it a skin with some bog standard apps from the Google Play store like Jorge Calendar or Evernote. I can't believe they'd just ship it with vanilla Android on it.
Rather than have to buy another device, perhaps they could work on a mobile phone case with this keyboard connecting via Bluetooth. As other people have pointed out, it's the keyboard and the hinge which are so great about this with the rest being likely an also-ran Android phablet. Most people already have a phablet of one sort or another - S7 Edge here - and don't intend to replace it anytime soon.
You'll have balance issues. With the Gemini the battery, and with it most of the weight, is underneath the keyboard. If you have some generic phone attached to a Psion-style keyboard in some way, you essentially have a battery on the back of the screen, with the associated repositioning of the CoG. Which can probably be mitigated by having a battery underneath the keyboard as well, to be hooked up as a power bank, but the setup won't be very elegant.
>Which can probably be mitigated by having a battery underneath the keyboard as well, to be hooked up as a power bank, but the setup won't be very elegant.
I reckon it could be done... The Moto Z actually has a fairly small internal battery, and a two way power/data magnetic connector. If you place a second battery under the keyboard module, and use a cunning sliding mechanism to place some support (a la the original Psion) it should be stable.
It isn't necessary that it work with every phone, just each year's new Moto Z equivalent.
[By the way, I would like to thank you all for your understanding; I've harped on quite a bit about Moto Mods this last two weeks, and you've all understood my enthusiasm has been for the possibilities such a system could open up - especially if open sourced or licensed out -and that I haven't been cheerleading for Motorola per se. In fact, I feel a bit sad that it is a proprietary connector]
I've got a small, but not folding, keyboard that works with Android, Ios, and Windows devices. About 20 quid from Maplin, less online I guess.
It fits OK-ish in a jacket pocket and works with my Note 3.
The Note 3 can be connected to a large screen through a media dock.
I can also connect the keyboard to a larger tablet - e.g the ones with phone sims in from Yuntab.
Works fine as a cheap PC when abroad with office mobile apps.
I've never forgiven my business partner for giving my psion 5mx to his son without telling me after an unguarded moment I said I wasn't using it as much as I thought I would.
I could see this being a big hit if they can get distribution for it as an alternative to business mobile phones. I've got a Galaxy S7 as a work phone but would much rather have something that's pocket sized with a real keyboard for editing docs, taking notes and emergency fixes when away from my laptop. Video conferencing too - very business friendly.
The £500 price ticket becomes less of an issue when your boss is paying. I can't see huge numbers of people buying one for themselves at that price, because you'd also need a phone. If your company buys you the Gemini and you run your own cheaper 'droid personal phone, you'd have a great little setup.
I'm no sys admin, but I'd love to have something like this as a true 'Pocket PC'.
I'm not interested in having it act as a phone - I generally find I that if I'm making a call I need to do 'stuff' on the screen that I can't do when I'm holding the thing to my head. Phone and PC as separate items makes more sense (BT headsets suck).
But as a tiny laptop.... now you're talking. FAR easier to carry around than any tablet with keyboard combo, or iMacAir/Netbook - if they stick a 'TouchPoint' (other names are far better known... ) cursor control onboard as well then I think I'd be throwing cash at them now.
cheaper than most phones and hopefully with a better spec. Played with Psion 3 and 5 personally I thought the 5 was getting a bit on the bulky side. The Form factor lends itself to the confined space of the comms room and the full keyboard great for a console connection
USB-C to Serial anyone?
Is this going to be usable anywhere other than a flat surface? The benefit of a design like the Nokia N900 is that you can stand up and use it on the move. This just looks like a minature laptop.
There is no doubt that the old Psions were great for their time - personally I struggle to find a use case for this now.
IIRC, you could use the Psions (3, 5) quite well standing up or walking around (slowly) if you were using both hands to hold it and both thumbs to type on it. Pretty much like I'm doing right now with a tablet. It worked even better on the Psions - proper keyboard, better form factor for that sort of thing.
The killer feature of the Psion Series 3 and 5 was the battery life. A full month on the 3, and a week on the 5, from a pair of alkaline AAs. That's *using* them, not sitting idle under a good book.
Phones seldom last a full day. Use them, and they lose charge so fast you ca
<that was my joke>
Even the solid old Nokias only lasted two days before needing to be plugged in. Kindle Fires are somewhere between the two. The Paperwhite lasts a good couple of weeks.
Make it twice the weight and give me a battery I can work with. This is going to need a good deal more than an 8 Ah battery if you want me to do work on it. Give me four times that, then maybe we'll talk.
Until then? If you're going to make me work tethered to a cable, I'm already not on my feet, so I may as well use a laptop.
32 Ah battery or gtfo.
I owned several Psion 5mxs, and while they were pretty good, the Psion series 7 knocked them into a cocked hat. I'd still be using one of those if it were remotely easy to connect to a PC nowadays.
Given that, though, if I wanted a device closer to a Psion nowadays, I'd just invest in a Chromebook.
I also agree that the hardware was great, but it was the software that was the killer feature. If they're simply going to put all the usual standard Linux/Android/whatever applications on this then they've completely missed the point. For me, the 5 was good but the 3mx was the best in terms of the UI. The stylus just slowed things down. Once you learnt all of the shortcuts it was far faster than using a PC. I wrote some not unsubstantial documents using it. Each style could be assigned a shortcut so you hardly ever needed to use the menus, let along point and click - it was incredibly quick. The Diary/Todo application was simply sublime and no PC offer has ever bettered it. It was expensive, yes - even had to bay a fortune for the separate spell checker (which I did), but it all worked wonderfully.
or at least an up-to date version.
well, maybe call it the Sony Xperia Flip - Nougat or 'Oreo' o/s,
microSD slot and hdmi / chromecast output and 'sync' to your cloud of choice.
The windows 10 version could be called the Sony Vaio Flip (yes, I know they sold /that/ brand...