back to article How's this for a stocking filler next year? El Reg catches up with Gemini

Production begins in January on the first new computer form-factor since the iPad – Planet Computing's "modern Psion", Gemini. It has already picked up an Innovation Award from the organisers of the International Consumer Electronics Show next month, where a formal launch will take place. And the project reached $1m in …

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Want one!

End of.

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Re: Want one!

Not at that price!

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Unhappy

Re: Want one!End of.

Still time to make a contribution for 299 or 399 for actual phone connectivity.

Keep in mind the Psion was not actually a phone to begin with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Want one!

Me too... Which is why I backed them the minute they went on Indiegogo! :)

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Re: Want one!

re "not at that price"

Interestingly when the Psion 5 was launched back in 97 it retailed for £439 which in todays money is around $755

Ok so this is no Psion (doesn't run OPL for a start) but boy has it got my juices flowing, in fact guess what I only went & did last night :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Want one!

As long as you bought one afterwards.

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Ordered one!

Couldn't resist; did it as soon as it came out. It'll look great alongside my Vega+ which will definitely utterly and absolutely arrive some time before the universe cools.

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Re: Want one!

I still use a Psion 3a daily and have almost 20 years of data on it.

It's just a beautifully engineered machine with the only weal link being the hinges, which do need looking after. I actually emailed Planet a while ago whether they'd consider developing an app to port everything from a Psion to the Gemini. I would imagine that people like me still using Psions on an almost daily basis are now, a pretty limited market and perhaps not worth the effort...

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Headmaster

"the first new computer form-factor since the iPad"

Are you saying that the iPad was something other than a tablet, the likes of which have been around since at least Microsoft's Tablet PC in 2002, a full 8 years before Apple finally jumped on the bandwagon, and in one form or another since the late 1960s?

As for the Gemini, as much as I like what I've seen of it so far, it also doesn't even remotely qualify as a new computer form factor either. The form factor is "palmtop", and has been around since at least the 1980s.

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...whether they'd consider developing an app ...

Sounds like an excellent project for you in 2018!

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Re: "the first new computer form-factor since the iPad"

What you said,... we had a few 'slate' PCs hanging around the office back in the day, so when the iPad arrived it was a bit 'Oh, Apple make them too', and yeah, given the Gemini is a revision of a design,.... it itself is not a new form factor.

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Re: "the first new computer form-factor since the iPad"

It's a bit much to claim "the first new computer form-factor since the iPad" when a lot of the appeal of this device is that it's an homage to the Psion organiser.

The fact that it is very much not a new design, but instead a tried and tested one is the selling point.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "the first new computer form-factor since the iPad"

I had a Fujitsu Stylistic Windows tablet PC. It was just the "screen", no keyboard built in* had to use a stylus. I had it for about a year and no one took a blind bit of notice. Soon as the iPads came out - "Oooh! you got an iPad!"

I did get an Apple logo sticker, stuck it on the case and wrote "NOT AN IPAD!" on it.

If I could upgrade it to Win7 from XP (no driver support) I'll still be using it as it was more use to me than an iPad as it had a network, modem and VGA ports so I could use it to test stuff as I was out and about

* did have USB ports and a docking station so you could plug in a keyboard

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Meh

Rear-facing camera or go home

OK, so now I've had a chance to really think about it, this device isn't anywhere near as exciting as I though it would be.

I mean, basically it's just an Android smartphone with a keyboard stuck to it.

No seriously, that's it. Isn't it? If there's significantly more to it then I'm afraid I don't see it.

So OK, there's nothing wrong with having a proper keyboard for smartphones, as long as the actual "phone" part checks all the boxes.

Except this one doesn't.

For a start, where's the camera? I mean the real camera, not the selfie camera.

Also, a dual-display would be good, so you can actually see who's calling without opening the device, and also make calls with an external touch dial pad. The second display wouldn't have to be full size, just big enough for a dial pad and maybe two status lines. Relocate the speaker and mic to the back somewhere, while you're at it, so this thing can actually be used as a phone, without having to play the iPhone 4 Twister game.

Other than that, yeah, pretty good, but honestly I think their money would've been better spent by just developing the keyboard itself, then selling it as an accessory for any phone. That way they wouldn't have had to pointlessly reinvent the smartphone, and I wouldn't be expected to shell out £/$ 600 for yet another Android device I don't need just to get a proper keyboard.

Executive summary: this is a £/$ 600 Psion keyboard screwed onto an Android phone.

I'd buy the keyboard for £30. Max.

Let the downvotes begin...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Want one!

I still have my old Series 5.

Hmm... why haven't I kept using it....

Oh wait, the screen that's unreadable in sunlight or inside or everywhere. And the pen that would stuck and the microswitch that I removed to repair my dad's Series 5S which kept telling him that the compactflash-slot door was open and...

Hmmm... I'll guess I'll just wait and see.

Perhaps as someone mentioned it would have been better to sell the keyboard as an add-on for existing phones.

Also why Mediatek? Aren't they the absolute WORST with regards to open-source (e.g. for Linux drivers)? Somehow it just feels a bit fishy...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Want one!End of.

Which is why it eventually failed.

The series 3 was cheap enough to be kept in pocket but the Series 5 was very expensive and couldn't connect to anything without an expensive serial lead (which quickly became obsolete due to the rise of USB).

If the Series 5 had at least Bluetooth then it would have had much better change of surviving but alas it only had infrared and serial.

It does look interesting though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Want one!End of.

Unfortunately, at the time that the Series 5 was being developed, USB was brand new technology (and not at all commonplace, and certainly not for compact portable devices), and Bluetooth was similarly new and shiny.

It would have made sense to have had both on the Series 5mx, but maybe redesigning the circuit board substantially to include these would have been tricky and expensive (although it should still have been done to help with future proofing, but possibly by then Psion was starting to be more interested in how the Symbian world could grow and expand further in mobile phones, with most major manufacturers being very interested at that time).

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DJO
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Re: Rear-facing camera or go home

OK, so now I've had a chance......

More than Android, runs Linux too

Rear camera is an optional extra ($49)

Lights in fold can be programmed to show caller or whatever, not perfect but better then nothing.

Mic and earpiece are already on the back, button on side for answering so you don't need to open it to use it as a phone.

The USP is that it's a fully functioning Linux computer with a decent keyboard and a phone too.

By the way a separate keyboard for a phone in this style wouldn't work because the centre of gravity would cause it to topple backwards and a keyboard pointing upwards is not a lot of use, this device has the battery in the base so it doesn't fall over. An external keyboard with an extra battery might work but I'm not sure if people would want another heavy item in their pockets.

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Re: Want one!

"I still have my old Series 5.

Hmm... why haven't I kept using it....

Oh wait, the screen that's unreadable in sunlight"

Are you sure it was a Series 5?

The Psion display was transflective LCD, superb in sunlight, even directly on the screen.

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Re: "the first new computer form-factor since the iPad"

re: "Microsoft's Tablet PC in 2002"

I think I can go back further even than that - my first "proper" job was at a research lab at the QE/University of Birmingham, where (by the time I left in 1996) we were looking into using kit like this to hook into the Renal Unit pathology system we had developed - the medics would then have access to blood test results and proposed tests to be performed (automatically generated, via a rulebase).

As you'd imagine back then - battery life and connectivity were as issue as I recall, but as a proof-of-concept it worked rather well...

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Resistance has finally gone

Been umming and aahing about whether to commit to the Indiegogo but having seen this I know I'm going to do it. Fuck it, it's Christmas and the money is pouring away like a rancid bottle of mulled wine down the sink anyhow.

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Pint

Re: Resistance has finally gone

"money is pouring away" nice festive imagery and I'm pleased it isn't just me with that issue

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Re: Resistance has finally gone

I held back because of previous indiegogo disasters. I'm happy to pay the extra 100 or wait for an improved V2 as I would like linux and was disappointed with their focus on Android.

Also author, I'll take the feel of the Toyota over an Audi or Merc any day. I want it to keep working for years.

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I'm in

Just because...

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I was hovering, but...

Shut up and take my money!

Lumia 950 finally end of life... ThinkPad Tablet II died in mysterious circumstances a few months ago... still miss my old BB PlayBook's almost-pocket portability...

I am most certainly in... As the bishop said to the actress.

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Linux

Seriously, I am a bit concerned that the Linux "dual-boot" might turn out to be a simulator or VM on top of Android. I don't want Google getting in the way and tampering with it.

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Re: Linux

I too would rather it was a full-on Dual-boot, rather than Linux-on-Android.

That said - I can see WHY they'd go for LoA. It means the device will still function (easily) as a phone - I can imagine anyone buying the 4G version will expect it to replace their phone as well as their netbook.

Personally I'd prefer a phone that does it's job as a phone, alongside a mini-laptop that functions fully as a mini-laptop.

that Agenda software does look nice I have to say - I like the way it mimics an old-style paper diary in it's layout, some older fogeys like myself will appreciate it.

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Re: Linux

From what's been shown in some of the updates, they intend to have both dual-boot and the VM solution, although it hasn't been mentioned in a while. There's a demo video showing it booting straight into Debian then rebooting into Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Linux

I backed them based on it being dual boot Linux, as I'm only bothered about having the Linux on there... Want it for on the go Linux hacking and development. Already have my phone for android.

I'll be slightly annoyed if they switched dual boot for Linux on android, but thankfully I don't think that's the case... That's an additional option.

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Re: Linux

I imagine that Linux on Android will be lxc or other chroot container.

I do this already on my phone, with a full debian shell environment. If I want a gui I have to use a virtual frame buffer in vncserver, then use android vncviewer. It's slow, but it does work.

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Alert

Re: Linux

> Personally I'd prefer a phone that does it's job as a phone, alongside a mini-laptop that functions fully as a mini-laptop.

Check out the Pyra, successor to the Pandora; not only fully open source (including the hardware), but made in Germany and equipped with a full complement of ports. https://pyra-handheld.com

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Re: Linux

I looked at the Pyra and decided that it's got little in common with the Geminision -- keyboard even worse for typing, lower resolution (which sometimes matters) and, well, the community kind of at its worst. Also, far more expensive.

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Organiser anyone?

@ RockBurner. Totally sympathise. Anyone else have Thredz Organiser? PP

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwib5rnjhq_YAhXJoqQKHWmaCSIQFgheMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FIBM_Lotus_Organizer&usg=AOvVaw0xO16wTRdKVCAZArUnwLNK

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Re: Linux

Then you don't want THIS.

Read EVERYthing on the Gemini...including the fact that one MIGHT be able to

ROOT THE MACHINE to make it run Linux natively.

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DJO
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Oh well

I have absolutely no pressing need for one of these and certainly cannot afford to spaz $400.

I ordered one in September.

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Holmes

Finally, a new Desire Z

Just with better keys.. and...well I wonder if when It's fully launched I can convince work to let me get one as a business option?

I'm also tempted to poke the product development team to have a look too (since I work for a mobile provider and all that jazz)

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Ordered

Two things I wish it had, which have stopped me from ordering up to now:

1. Backlight on the keyboard (would be so nice if the letters would light up like my HP Envy laptop, rather than glowing aroud the keys).

2. Mediatek SoC... AFAIAA, they have not released all kernel source code under GPL, which stuffs up custom ROMs and future versions of Android.

Nevertheless, we'll see what happens. Thanks El Reg!

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Re: Ordered

Hopefully Google's Project Treble should make Android updates less dependent on chipset vendors delivering binary blobs... but as you say, wait and see.

Another option is a Moto Mod physical Qwerty keyboard.

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DJO
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Re: Ordered

Backlight is a bit tricky:

Stick a LED under each key and the battery life is dramatically cut. - Unacceptable

Using a diffuser plate under the keys depends on the keyboard design and would add at least an extra mm to the thickness - Unacceptable

Run a fibre to each key from a single light source , too fiddly and fragile and would be prohibitively expensive to make - Unacceptable.

Add an alpha emitter and some phosphor to the ink on the keys, cover with a clear lacquer - This would probably work and not be too expensive but would never get regulatory approval.

What would probably work is to stick an UV LED in the top 2 corners of the display pointing to the keyboard and add some phosphor to the ink.

In reality the keyboard is so close to the screen unless you have a really dark screen it will bleed enough light onto the keyboard to render a backlight largely unnecessary.

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Re: Ordered

Given the distance from the sceeen I suspect a backlight isn't strictly necessary. I don't think the Psions had one and I don't think it was an issue at the time.

Personally, I don't care too much about the SoC. Unlike so many box shifters Planet has a vested interest in providing a good after-sales experience for this product. The discussions so far relating to the Linux port indicate that those who really need a unix in the pocket will get everything they need. However, loads of Linux-numpties seem to focussing on whether their particular whatever will be available. Not difficult to understand why the Linux market has never functioned in that respect: people seem to want everything but are not willing to pay for it: teenage hobbyists.

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Alert

Re: Ordered

> What would probably work is to stick an UV LED in the top 2 corners of the display pointing to the keyboard and add some phosphor to the ink.

I think this is one idea that needs to be quietly shelved, for the sake of mankind (or at least office coworkers).

https://sciencing.com/kind-stains-black-lights-detect-5045775.html

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Re: Ordered

"The discussions so far relating to the Linux port indicate that those who really need a unix in the pocket will get everything they need."

BSD?

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Re: Ordered

I don't think the Psions had one and I don't think it was an issue at the time.

Given that the keyboard on my 5mx was good enough to touch-type, I never felt the lack of a backlight. Also, of course, the screen itself was never the brightest (even with the backlight) so the tendency was not to use it in pitch black!

M.

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Re: Ordered

"Stick a LED under each key and the battery life is dramatically cut. - Unacceptable"

Actually no, if you that you can radically reduce the brightness of every LED and therefore radically reduce the power you need to drive it. In essence it doesn't matter how many LEDs you need, what matters is the total amount of light you need.

The Pyra, for example, uses a middle ground. It uses some LEDs for the keyboard, with a diffuser in between.

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Years ago I said I'll get a smartphone when it's basically a Psion with a phone attached.

Seems reality has finally aught up with my aspirations from 1996...

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Anonymous Coward

"Seems reality has finally aught up with my aspirations from 1996..."

Now all I want to see is an organizer app that's as smart as Agenda seems to have been in 1983

But the days of people writing things that assisted you, rather than simply allowed you, to do things seem long gone.

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Agenda..... or Organizer?

I still haven't found diary software better than Lotus Organiser (2.11), which I am still using, mainly on Win7, but it works on Win10 as well.

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Dvorak keyboard as an option? Might happen if I read the article correctly. Though it does look a bit smaller than the full size keyboard I would want, and I'd want a black on white keyboard, white on black is for screens.

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