US firm Motorola Solutions is to buy UK tech icon Psion, the inventor of the personal digital assistant (PDA) and source of the one-time leading mobile operating system Symbian.
The sale, announced on Friday, sees the firm – currently a maker of ruggedised mobile devices – go to the section of Motorola which remains, after the recent purchase of its phone division Motorola Mobility, by Google. The agreed price is $200 million (£127m).
The deal, which marks the end of Psion’s existence as an independent company, is intended to help Motorola Solutions cut its costs, expand its range of mobile products and expand its reach with industrial clients. The all-cash offer of 88 pence per share represents a 45 percent premium on Psion’s closing price on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday and a 66 percent premium over Psion’s average price over the past six months.
“Psion is a compelling opportunity to strengthen our industry-leading, mobile-computing portfolio with ruggedised handheld products and vehicle-mount terminals,” said Motorola Solutions chief executive Greg Brown in a statement.
The deal, which depends on regulatory approval and other customary conditions, is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Psion is to be incorporated into Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Mobile Computing business.
Psion’s current form originated in September 2000 with the merger of Psion and Canada’s Teklogix, a maker of industrial handheld computers and wireless data collection systems. It has operations in 14 countries and customers in more than 80 countries, employing about 830 people. The company recorded sales of £176m in 2011.
However, the Psion brand remains best known for its mobile organisers, which developed from its role writing software for Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum home computers. These consumer devices are seen as the world’s first hand-held computers and prefigured later handheld devices from Palm Computing, RIM and Apple.
The Psion Organiser was launched in 1984 and was followed by the more successful Psion Organiser II (pictured), which included a contacts database, electronic diary and simple games. It continued to produce organisers such as the Series 3 in the 1990s, while facing growing competition from the likes of Palm and Microsoft.
The Series 5, from 1997, was a pocket-sized clamshell, featuring a keyboard on which it was possible to type, and a mobile operating system called EPOC.
In 1998, Symbian renamed EPOC as Symbian and formed a partnership with Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola to exploit its developer ecosystem on smartphones. Symbian was the leading operating system on smartphones for the early part of the decade, although Apple and later Android presented unsurmountable competition.
Motorola, meanwhile has gone through shake-ups. Its mobile division was sold to Google this year, leaving Motorola Solutions, an enterprise wireless and mobility outfit which also contains the assets of previous big wireless and mobile hitters such as Symbol.
Motorola Solutions included a business making rugged devices for business, so the acquisitino of Psion/Teklogix epresents a consolidation of the market
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