Some of you may be a little surprised to see me here. No, I don?t mean here in Viewpoint, but here on a Monday afternoon sitting opposite a statue with Outram written on the base in this little green garden-cum-park next to the Embankment at Charing Cross. That here.
I, as I?m sure it will come as no surprise to discover, am working as I sit here. In fact I am writing this, which is work of sorts. Unfortunately, I have a distinct feeling that some of the words may seem a little smudged because it is currently trying to rain (actually it has given up on trying to rain and is now working on a flash flood), but I will persevere. Although it isn?t the weather I am persevering with, it is the keyboard on this Psion Series 5 that is taking a little getting used to.
I have just spent a couple of hours in the company of the Awfully Nice people at Psion with them telling me and the rest of Europe?s press just how good its new Series 5 is. And to bring you the hot poop immediately, I have snuck away from the back-slapping, smiley hand shaking and, most importantly, probably the best quiche I have ever tasted, to come here, in the rain, to tell you about it. However, if another person walks by saying they are going to build an Ark I think I am going to punch them.
So here I am, around 250 words in and I have to say this here Series 5 is a marked improvement on the old Series 3 ? not quite a pleasure to use, but I have only been using it for 20 minutes or so and it is remarkably comfortable. Alas, it is a real pity that I can?t ? hand on heart ? say the same positive things about Psion.
Oh sure, it has tried very hard, and for that, bless it, but almost everything in the launch highlighted the problem Psion has.
For a start, the launch was held in the Gladstone Library of this incredibly beautiful building off Whitehall, lots of aged wood and marble, very Old England. The Library had, we were told, 30,000 books in it ? although the ones near to me seemed to be simply book spines glued on to a plywood sheet ? perhaps they were a set on DIY. I also noticed there were very few paperbacks and almost no Jeffrey Archer. And while there isn?t actually anything wrong with holding the conference in the heart of Victoriana, it did vie badly with the high-tech image of the company.
But the real problem was the message Psion was putting out ? or perhaps more accurately, the message Psion didn?t put out.
The Series 5 is an excellent product. No really, it is. I?ve played with a Windows CE machine and the Psion blows it out of the water. The package comes bundled with Psi Win 2 plus PC cable and the integration with Windows 95 is excellent. The keyboard is very good, and better than anything else I have tried at that size, the screen is very good too ? not, alas, quite as good as the 3c but still very good. The unit is well made and ?feels nice?.
This really could make a very useful corporate tool; this could sell by the boat load.
But Psion doesn?t seem to be able to get that message across. During the presentation we got lots of flag waving and a clever demo of the product, but we didn?t get any information on how, say, it integrates with CC:mail or Lotus Notes (it does both well), or any information on how Psion might provide support for the product should anyone decide to sell lots of them to a customer. The message was simply not corporate enough. Psion is now up against the professional players in the corporate arena; to be taken seriously as a player it has to show us how good it is, not assume that we know.
Psion can no longer afford to remind us of Apple; a company with limitless arrogance and a nice bit of kit. Luckily there are differences, for a start the Psion machines are reasonably priced and, for what it?s worth, I think Psion knows that it has to change and is working very hard to do so. But it needs to change more.
I don?t want to get into too much flag waving but Psion is a British company with a bloody good British product ? it ought to succeed. It certainly has at the retail end of the market, but to move on it has to change. It isn?t impossible, and I personally think it will succeed ? only, for it to succeed big time it has to work much harder at putting its corporate ideas over.
Lecture over. Now, two things ? first, the Series 5 isn?t actually waterproof but doesn?t seem too bothered by torrential rain and second, well, does anyone know where I can buy an Ark?
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