This week news broke that Psion, the company that got a trademark on the term “netbook” more than 10 years ago has apparently decided to begin enforcing that trademark. Never mind the fact that Psion hasn’t released a new machine under the netbook name in 8 years, and the fact that Intel has been throwing the word around since 2007. No, Psion decided the rational thing to do was to send a cease & desist letter to a handful of bloggers that had been using the word netbook to describe something other than Psion’s product.
As I told Wired’s Gadget Lab, I haven’t received any letters from Psion, but the whole thing seems a bit silly to me. I’m not saying Psion doesn’t have a valid right to protect their trademark. But the company should be duking it out with Intel, not bloggers who are using the word that pretty much everyone in the industry is using to describe mini-laptops. I could understand perhaps going after web sites that use the word netbook in their names, but from what I understand, Psion is going after bloggers who simply used the word in articles.
Anyway, while this behavior doesn’t exactly leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings about Psion, here’s the thing. The company did release some pretty awesome devices that were years ahead of their time. Most used the EPOC operating system that later evolved into the Symbian OS which is used on may smartphones today. But the Psion Netbook, which was released in 2000, ran Windows CE.
The original Netbook had an 800 x 600 pixel touchscreen display and could run pocket versions of Office and Internet Explorer. It was about as powerful as a cellphone or PDA is today. but the form factor bears a striking resemblance to the mini-laptops we know and love today. And while the operating system is a bit on the old side, it’s possible to install a version of Linux on the hardware and run some light weight apps like the Dillo web browser if you want something a bit more up to date.
The Psion Netbook cost more than $1000 when it first hit the streets. Today you can find it for on eBay for less than $2oo.
Perhaps Psion’s sudden decision to enforce its trademark means the company will be coming out with a new and improved model soon. Or maybe the company is just trying to make a few bucks by drumming up some interest and then selling the name to Intel, the company that’s already registered the Netbook.com domain.