We May Need a New Name For Netbooks

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?


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  1. Keith December 24, 2008 at 7:13 am #


  2. Robert December 24, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    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 December 24, 2008 at 7:53 am #

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

  4. Jared Newman December 24, 2008 at 8:09 am #


  5. William December 24, 2008 at 11:18 am #

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

  6. Alex December 24, 2008 at 11:36 am #

    We should call them “Psions”

  7. Ingolf Schaefer December 24, 2008 at 11:54 am #

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

  8. DemoGeek December 24, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    How about “LapNet”?

  9. Andrew December 24, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    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 December 24, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    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 December 24, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    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 December 25, 2008 at 4:17 pm #


  13. Steven December 25, 2008 at 10:33 pm #

    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 December 26, 2008 at 3:50 am #

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

  15. Julian Skidmore December 30, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    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 January 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    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 October 26, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    Nano notebooks show room

  18. Kylie Sanchez May 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

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

  19. Jerrie Staten June 30, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    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.


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