I've been considering buying myself a "netbook" recently -- the mini-notebook computers that have become quite popular in the last year or so. As was recently discussed, such mini-notebooks have been around for years, but have finally figured out how to hit that right sweetspot
that makes them worth buying in large numbers. I'd been following the various products on the market to try to figure out which one to get, but I realized recently that I had no idea where the whole "netbook" classification had come from. The Asus EeePC got plenty of attention when it launched about a year ago, and then there were plenty of follow up machines -- and somewhere along the line they all got lumped into the "netbook" category.
There's one company that isn't pleased at all: Psion.
For mobile computing geeks -- especially those in Europe, the Psion netBook was quite well known for years in the early part of this decade, as offering a pretty decent tiny computer, that (for whatever reason) never was much of a hit in the US. Either way, Psion gave up on the product somewhere along the way, but retains the trademark on the name, and caused a bit of a stir last week by sending out some cease and desist letters
about the use of the term, noting (correctly) that it owned the trademark. There was some confusion over reports that some of these letters went to blogs and enthusiast sites, but the lawyers representing Psion were quick to clarify
that most of the letters were sent to manufacturers and retailers -- with just a few that went to sites that actively ran advertisements for "netbooks."
Psion is probably in the legal right here -- though, there's a decent chance that they're too late on stopping the netbook name from becoming generic. While Psion claims that it still sells accessories for netBooks, it really doesn't sell the actual netBooks any more, so going the legal route seems a bit pointless. Why not capitalize on the trend by trying to sell products for today's netbooks, while noting
that it was the original netbook maker. Rather than trying to keep the term tied to a dead market, why not use the fact that Psion was an early player in the space to help build up its own cred in today's market? The strategy of trying to get the world to use a different name, while legally correct, just seems short-sighted overall.