Psion History

History of early Psion miniature computers

Formed in 1980 by Dr David Potter, still the chairman of Psion PLC. Psion launched the first Organiser in 1984, and was one of the first PDA manufacturers.

Early Organisers

Steve Litchfield has done an excellent short history of Psion which appeared in Palmtop Magazine. He also provides photos and brief descriptions from the organisers right through to the latest models at his excellent and highly recommended site. stevelitchfield.com/history.htm

The Organiser models started in 1984 with a single line 2 kb model, and went through about four models to a four line 64 kb model by 1988.

The MC Mobile Computers

The MC200 was the first 16 bit Psion, around 1989. It used an early version of the Series 3's SIBO OS and had four slots for similar SSD (although I believe files can not be swapped). 640 x 200 LCD, and a touchpad, with 256kB ROM and 256kB RAM. 12 volt 600mA or 1A NiCd battery packs, on 8 AA batteries.

The MC400 had a larger 640 x 400, greenish LCD screen. A later versions became the MCWord (a better version of Word). A lot of Psion enthusiasts seem to think this was as good as it got.

There is a brochure still up at www.cix.co.uk/~ropewalk/MC400/ You can find an excellent page about this model at Trygve Henriksen's site home.c2i.net/trygveh/mc400/

The MC600 was an MS DOS 3.2 system, and was not highly regarded by Psion enthusiasts.

Their pricing may have had something to do with their disappearance, and laptops probably appeared only slightly later.

Psion 3 SIBO range

The first Psion 3 palmtop appeared in 1991 as a 128k model, with a 240 x 80 display and two SSD slots.

I have reviews of some later models on my Psion page.

Psion 5 EPOC range

The Psion 5 EPOC system appeared in mid 1997.

I have reviews of all models on my Psion page.

Associated Psion Companies

As at 2001, the companies associated with Psion were:

Psion PLC
Psion has sales companies in the USA, Germany and Holland, as well as the various other Psion group companies. It is also one of the major shareholders (28%) in Symbian. Pretax loss of 2 million for 2000, against 6.7 million profit the previous year. www.psion.com
Psion Digital Solutions
A merge of Psion Computers plc, Psion Enterprise Computing Ltd (which first merged with Teklogix International), Psion Connect (formerly Psion Dacom), Psion Infomedia.
Symbian
Joint venture owned by Psion (28%), Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Matsushita. Psion started looking at licensing in July 1996 with the formation of Psion Software. Markets the Epoc32 operating system as the basis for mobile communication systems and smart phones. London headquaters, offices in Japan and San Francisco Bay area. See also my Symbian page and www.symbian.com.

History of Psion companies

There have been a lot of company changes from 2000 with the dotcom boom, with Psion buying a number of interesting companies and their technologies. After the dotcom bust, Psion merged lots of them to reduce costs. Here is a list of some of these changes.

Psion Computers plc (merged into Psion Digital Solutions)
Business and retail handheld computers such as the Psion 5mx, P and Revo, using the Epoc32 operating system. Merged into Psion Digital Solutions in March 2001. www.psion.com
Psion Enterprise Computing Ltd (merged into Psion Digital Solutions)
Industrial mobile computers such as Workabout, netBook and Organiser, and new tablet portables like the netPad to come. Merged into Teklogix in 2000. That merged into Psion Digital Solutions in March 2001.
Psion Connect (merged into Psion Digital Solutions)
Formerly Psion Dacom, third placed provider of premium PC Card modems. Makes GoldCard multifunction modem cards such as modem and ISDN cards. Supplies companies such as Compaq and Dell. Also aiming at the Bluetooth market. Merged into Psion Digital Solutions in March 2001.
Psion Teklogix (merged into Psion Digital Solutions)
This was the combination of Psion Enterprise, and Teklogix International of Canada in 2000. Like Psion Enterprise this 800 person Canadian company is aimed at enterprise business solutions, especially using mobile wireless units, and has an interest in voice input products. Deal was about 242 million. Merged into Psion Digital Solutions in March 2001. The Teklogix section (45% of revenue in 2000) alone is probably worth as much as the market was valuing Psion in March 2001, when shares prices hit a two year low (after being wildly overvalued).
Psion InfoMedia (merged into Psion Digital Solutions)
A new division in early 2000, aimed at communication and computing, distributing audio and data to the home via computers. The first product is the Psion Wavefinder Digital Audio. This uses PC software to replace hardware. Merged into Psion Digital Solutions in March 2001.
Trivanti Ltd (disbanded)
A joint venture with United News and Media in 2000, with Psion contributing the newly acquired Fondata WAP portal and provider, plus cash. Trivanti is aimed at providing mobile internet content enrichment across multiple platforms. Will market wireless internet to businesses and consumers. The total contribution by both companies was about 9 million. Psion abandoned the Trivanti venture in May 2001, and it is speculated that WAP wasn't looking as viable a market as previously.

Sales History and Trends

Sales for 1994 rose by nearly 50% to £61.3 million, with profits doubled to £6.55 million. This would presumably have been mostly Psion 3a and peripherals. Industry statistics for around that time credited the Psion 3a with annual sales of 163,500 units or 32.7% of the PDA market. (Psion 3a prices around that time were around £300.)

The upgraded 2MB Psion 3a was selling at around £399 in 1996 prior to the release of the Siena model.

1996 gross profit margin was 41%, up 35% on 1995.

On 15 July 1996 Psion formed a new company called Psion Software, to license the Psion operating system and applications.

Psion shares high of £5.09 just before the Psion 5 was launched (1997). Dropped after, due to slowdown of Series 3c sales, and cost of developing the 5. Low of £2.87 in August 1997.

Psion were producing 25,000 Psion 5 per month in Sept 1997, and planned to increase this to 40,000 by the end of 1997. First run failures were around 50%, reducing to under 10% within a few weeks, and aiming at 1%.

In the first half of 1998, Psion were estimated by IDC to have 59% of the European PDA business. Psion Dacom sold 800,000 units (PC Cards) in 1998.

In 1999, Psion had earnings gearing of 152, which was pretty stupid. Share prices went to £9 on 27 April, and to £10 in July. In Sept 1999 Psion PLC sales were down £10.1M to £62.4M, and income down £4.1M to £2.4M. Psion Computers sales down 34%, but they had cash on hand amounting to £72M. By 8 November, Psion PLC shares fell to £4 after a high for the year of £16.43, which valued Psion at £1.3B. On 3 December 1999, Psion outsourced manufacturing to Flextronics, who also took over the Psion manufacturing facility in Middlesex U.K. for £400,000.

In February 2000, shares in Psion PLC rose rapidly to £54, valuing the company at £4 B. In August 2000, Psion PLC had a sales increase of 99% for the year to June, mostly on Revo and 5mx. Psion Enterprise was up 59%. Group turnover was up 47% to £94.3M with a pretax profit of £3M. For comparison, Palm in 2000 had sales of US$1.058 B, growth of 101%, net income of US$16.9 M. They sold 1.1 million units in the last quarter, with total sales to date 7.1 million.

Psion reported a small operating profit for the first half of 2002 despite falling revenues and difficult conditions in its core Teklogix business. Revenues for the first six months of the year fell 29.6% to GBP 70.8m. Profit at the operating level, before goodwill and exceptional items was GBP 2.2m, up from a GBP 6.4m loss in the same period last year. Psion continued to wind down the operations of its Digital division. Psion said it was confident that its current cash reservces of GBP 26.0m would enable it to fund its commitments to Symbian until the venture reached break even.

PDA and SmartPhone Sales

Western European sales Q1 2000, 2001, according to Canalys.

Device  Q1 2001 Q1 2001 Q1 2000 Q1 2000
        Share   Units   Units   Share
Palm    41.3    347,262 215,153 52.1
Compaq  11.9    100,362   8,978  2.2
Casio    9.5     79,870  29,330  7.1
Nokia    9.3     78,280  49,510 12
Psion    8.9     74,820  78,720 19.1
Handsp   7.2     60,262
Ericsson 4.6     38,735
HP       4.1     34,210  16.515  4
IBM      2.2     18,265   9,235  2.2
Others   1        8,437   5,170  1.3

IDC suggest the market for handheld computers declined in Q1 2002, falling 12.1% to around 3.25m. Sales at Palm, the market leader, declined 23.5% to give it a worldwide market share of 39%. This was a slight rise on Q4 2001, reversing the recent downward trend in its market share figures. In the US it slipped 0.6% to 47.5%. Compaq, which shipped its two millionth iPaq, claimed the number two spot from Handspring, capturing 10.1% of the market or 0.33m units. Handspring and Hewlett Packard suffered dramatic declines, with sales falling 24.2% and 43.9% sequentially. Sony, a Palm OS licensee, was the major success story of the quarter, and grew shipments over 250% year-on-year, selling 0.25m units or 7.7% of the market.

Handheld device shipments in the European market declined 21% during Q2 2002 according to IDC. Total unit shipments were 450,000 versus 568,000 a year ago. HP figures included sales of Compaq's iPaq, became the leading vendor in the market, placing Pocket PC devices ahead of Palm for the first time.

Palm outsold its nearest competitor by almost two-to-one in Q2 2002 according to Gartner Dataquest. However, despite shipping 818,800 devices worldwide in the three month period, Palm got less revenue from its unit shipments than Hewlett Packard. HP sold 431,650 iPaq Pocket PC units for $220.1m. Note widening gap in the average selling price (ASP) of Pocket PC and Palm OS handhelds. Based on Gartner's figures, HP achieved an ASP of about $510, while Palm's ASP was only $265.

Comscore Networks say there may be as many as 9.9m mobile internet users in the US in mid 2002. Comscore surveyed 60,000 Americans and extrapolated the results to find that 5m people use a handheld computer to access internet services and 5.8m use a wireless phone, while 900,000 use both There is a widespread perception that the US mobile data market lags that in Europe and the Far East. A typical user was male, between 18 and 34 years old and had a household income of USD 60,000 or more. Comscore say gay and lesbian interest sites were the most popular, at 30%, while car rental sites (17%) and directories (16%) also scored highly.

Market research firm Canalys was forecasting 3.3m smartphone shipments in the EMEA region during 2003 as part of its Mobile Device Trends report.

Psion's share of funding Symbian (mostly by way of a rights issue) in the first half of 2002 was £5.9m.

Teklogix the Canadian industrial handheld business Psion acquired in 1990 for £243m - £100m in cash. Psion has around £26m in net cash and marketable investments, enough to fund losses for about six months at the current burn rate. In the three months to June 2002, Psion recorded a pretax loss of £15.4m on sales of £70.8m, compared with 2001's £54.4m loss on sales of 100.5m. Sales from the continuing businesses were £62.1m. However, most of Q2 2002 losses were writedowns and amortization of goodwill - Psion recorded a small operating profit of £2.2m. Psion's net assets stand at £185m, of which £131m is goodwill. Sales fell - to £70.8m from £100.5m, after it withdrew from the market.

Psion said Symbian would continue to carry heavy costs but it expected sales to increase in the second half of 2002, and it did not expect Symbian to make a profit until annual sales of devices carrying its software reached at least 15 million units.

Psion has selected Alistair Crawford, former Chief Executive of LogicaCMG's European business, to replace Ian McElroy when he retires as CEO in June 2003.


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