We May Need a New Name For Netbooks

By  |  Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 7:02 am

psionnetbookBack in the mid-1990s, I loved my Psion PDA as much as any gadget I’ve ever owned. But Psion stopped making consumer products years ago, and I wasn’t even positive if the company–which spun off its software unit into phone OS powerhouse Symbian–was still in business.

Well, it is. And JK on the Run is reporting that its lawyers are sending letters to netbook sites telling them they have until the end of March to stop using the term “netbook.” That’s because Psion once made a subnotebook called the netBook, and apparently still has a trademark on the name.

Back in the day, Psion was in many ways a visionary company, and its netBook was very much like a modern netbook–it was an undersized, solid-state notebook designed primarily for going online with.I was tempted to get one at the time. But I hope that its attempts to suppress use of the generic “netbook” go nowhere. I’m no trademark lawyer, but until it started siccing lawyers on people, the current Psion apparently had so have so little interest in its netBook that it’s consigned to a page of discontinued products, and the link for more information is dead. If we’re talking about a dispute between modern-day Psion and the rest of the world, I’m taking the side of the rest of the world.

But the possibility remains that Psion (which calls itself Psion Teklogix these days) may succeed in squelching use of “netbook.” Which would mean we’d need a new name for small, cheap notebooks. The only existing alternative I can think of off the top of my head is Microsoft’s dreadful acronym ULCPC (Ultra Low-Cost Personal Computer). Understandably enough, nobody uses it except for Microsoft.

A few ideas, just in case we need them (tragically, all of these stink):

Webbook (or Webook)
Cloudbook (except for the fact that Everex would complain)
SIN (Small Inexpensive Notebook)

Or we could simply call them…notebooks. Which is what they are.

Any other candidates?


Read more: , ,

19 Comments For This Post

  1. Keith Says:


  2. Robert Says:

    Oh, wow, Harry. I forgot all about the Psion netBook. I used to love those things. Ultimately, though, I’m with you on this one. I’m going to wager that Psion doesn’t have a leg to stand on, since the industry is using ‘netbook’ as a generic term for a category and no single vendor is really attempting to attach the name to its own brand. Frankly, it seems pretty clear that Psion’s attorneys are harassing the smallest players they can find, the enthusiast bloggers, over the generic use of a term that has no connection to Psion in the public consciousness. This effort is as foolhardy and ridiculous as it would be for Kleenex to sue over use of its brand as a general description for facial tissue. I can hardly wait to see smackdown Psion will get if it tries bringing this action against real industry players.

  3. Robert Says:

    Oh, and good job on the SIN acronym. That gets my vote.

  4. Jared Newman Says:


  5. William Says:

    PC Magazine mentioned “Laptot”… though I shudder to think that becomes a mainstream name for these devices.

  6. Alex Says:

    We should call them “Psions”

  7. Ingolf Schaefer Says:

    What about “bedbook”. I find myself using mine in bed more and more … 🙂

  8. DemoGeek Says:

    How about “LapNet”?

  9. Andrew Says:

    I hope sion wins, as I’ve always thought the name Netbook was stupid. These are small and inexpensive laptops, not a new category or paradigm.

  10. Peter Says:

    Why not just pay Psion Teklogix a royalty fee to use the name netbook? I have both the original netBook and the netBookPro (pictured above). My wife loves the netBookPro with a wireless card it is amazing for surfing and with the built in applications it does email well too… I miss it and wish Psion had of done more with the netbook… like a linux version.

  11. seremina Says:

    Ultraportable Laptop? [UPLs]
    Solidlap? [refers to SSD drives]
    Nobreaky? [they’re hard to break, afaik]
    PortaLappy [snappiest name I can think of]

    I can’t think of any more. My brain’s fried. Anybody here has an ibuprofen I can take?

  12. matthew Says:


  13. Steven Says:

    Admit it, Psion was ahead of its time and it took the rest of the world 15+ years to catch up. Psions ran off of a flash drives (kinda like Apple and others are including as an expensive add-ons) which allowed the computer to be turned on and instantly be used, no boot-up time required. Why is the Dell not allowed to say it has “Firewire” ports? Could it be because Apple has a trademark? Should Trademarks and Patents be invalidated because the owner has not produced/pursued the idea? In this situation, Psion did build and sell the netBook, it was not just a concept they had. Pay Psion a royalty, just like radio stations pay royalties for playing a particular artist song and move on. (With the hefty royalty Psion receives they might just get back into handheld business and make a lot of people happy.)

  14. Alexei Kakhno Says:

    Well-Defined ‘HandBook’ !!!
    Do not think any more! Only ‘HandBook’

  15. Julian Skidmore Says:

    I too have a Psion netbook. It’d be better if Psion got everyone to acknowledge their role (instead of Intel’s) as the originator of the ‘netbook’.

    It’s not merely the name similarity – the netbook was powered by an early StrongArm processor – a superfast 1W Arm CPU designed by Digital Equipment Corporation’s Alpha team which Intel bought when DEC collapsed in the late 90s.

    So it’s a taunt, Intel knew all about the netbook / Psion connection, they just didn’t want to use it until they’d launched their Atom-based competitor after divesting themselves of StrongArm/XScale.

  16. blissapp Says:

    My UK MSI Wind (PC World – Advent 4211) is called a NetBook on the box, so maybe Psion do have a case here. It’s cool that they invented a “hoover” though (maybe just a UK thing, a hoover is a generic term for a vacuum cleaner), maybe it’s time for them to come back. I’ve oft admired Psion computers, though never owned one.

    I think the time is right to re-use the term mini-computer for these things though, it’s what I call mine and people seem to understand what I mean (they don’t imagine I’m lugging a huge box around with me!)

  17. Refik Says:

    Nano notebooks show room

  18. Kylie Sanchez Says:

    ibuprofen is definitely the best OTC painkiller for me. It helps me a lot to deal with my muscular pain.,*:

  19. Jerrie Staten Says:

    I Just Sent This Post To A Bunch Of My Friends As I Agree With Most Of What Yo re Saying Here And The Way You re Presented It Is Awesome.

3 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Psion Says: Stop Calling them Netbooks! Gearlog BookMark Says:

    […] in case, Technologizer is already looking for new terms just in case. My suggestions: negligi-books or […]

  2. Old Operating Systems Don’t Die… | Technologizer Says:

    […] of you are probably sick of hearing me wax rhapsodic over the Psion Series 5, an amazing PDA from the 1990s which would still be amazing in some respects if it were re-released […]

  3. We May Need a New Name for Smartbooks. (Good!) | Technologizer Says:

    […] whole situation is reminiscent of Psion’s period of trying to stomp out use of “netbook” (which was soon resolved). This time, though, I’d shed no tears if the chip companies and […]