Psion Plc, the Cambridge, UK hand-held computer maker has formed a joint venture with Nokia Oy and LM Ericsson Telefon AB to develop and market new wireless information devices. Psion said on Tuesday that it had something up its sleeve (CI No 3,428), and Wednesday disclosed that it intends to take the wireless device market […]
Psion Plc, the Cambridge, UK hand-held computer maker has formed a joint venture with Nokia Oy and LM Ericsson Telefon AB to develop and market new wireless information devices. Psion said on Tuesday that it had something up its sleeve (CI No 3,428), and Wednesday disclosed that it intends to take the wireless device market by storm. Psion has basically spun out its software division and re-invented it as joint venture company Symbian Ltd. Under the terms of the agreement, Psion will retain 40% of the new company, with Nokia and Ericsson each owning 30%. Nokia and Ericsson signed the agreement early Wednesday morning, as Motorola Inc revealed it wanted a piece of the action as well and duly signed a memorandum of understanding to become a member of Symbian. When and if Motorola becomes involved, it will have the option to have equal stakes to Ericsson and Nokia at 23%, but Psion will retain majority ownership at 31%. Under the terms of the deal, Nokia and Ericsson have bought their stake in the former Psion Software division, each paying 20m pounds, in addition to the 17.5m pounds that Psion will receive in cash. It is believed that the establishment of Symbian has added an additional 40m pounds of value to Psion, as its shares rocketed as much as 34% from Tuesday and reached as high as 383 pence on Wednesday, up a massive 85% from Monday’s price of 207.5 pence. Symbian opens up a huge opportunity for Psion’s Epoc operating system. Symbian will license the Epoc 32-bit, C++-based, multitasking operating system (CI No 3,244) to other smart phone and communicator manufacturers in the wireless information device space. A Psion spokesperson said Epoc stands a very real chance of becoming the standard for smart phone and communicator devices. With Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola standing up and telling the world that they believe Epoc is the best such operating system, market opportunities are endless. Ericsson’s president of mobile communications, Johan Siberg anticipates the wireless device market will have in excess of 600m users by 2002, and believes around 15-20% will be solely mobile-based. Symbian is confident its can grab a sizeable share of that. Psion is clearly very committed to making a go of it in what is a new market for the London-based company. The question that automatically springs to mind, is what will become of Psion’s hand-held device market, an area of much discussion and speculation of late (CI No 3,364). Psion says there is no question of moving away from its core business and in fact thinks Symbian will create new hand-held business. A company spokesperson said that corporations will probably take Epoc more seriously and start considering it as an option in addition to its smart phone and communicator functionality. Symbian opened for business today, and already has a staff of 150 based out of the company’s offices in London, Japan and California. While Symbian headquarters will be officially based in London, Psion has said the company will be run to a US business model, and expects to triple its staff numbers within the next two years. Symbian is a privately held at the moment, but Psion says it will likely float on Nasdaq at some point in the not-so-distant future.