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Psion boss: your country needs geeks

Sir David Potter, founder of iconic British gadget maker Psion, warned this week that the UK can’t rely on the financial services business to cover its import bills forever.

Potter called for the government to formulate a strategy to boost engineering and manufacturing industry, pointing to the numbers of scientists and engineers being hired by investment banks.

As well as Psion’s pioneering line up of pocket computers, the firm essentially invented the Symbian operating systems users of Nokia and Sony Ericsson gadgets know and love. Symbian Ltd, was formed as a joint venture with the handset vendors, but in 2004 Psion sold its interests in mobile to Nokia, having made its last gadget in 2000.

However, it seems that Sir David is feeling some seller’s remorse. In the UK press this week he was quoted as saying he now “regrets leaving consumer electronics”.

The comment makes his remark that, “if you don’t control the design and innovation of those business processes, hardware, services, and software, then you don’t really keep a hold on the ownership and the realisation, where the profits come back to,” look rather less hypocritical than it might have been.

After all, back in 2001 the company had the first two Bluetooth-enabled PDAs in the world ready to launch, with features such as an MP3 codec implemented directly on the custom made processor. But the firm decided the venture would be too risky, and promptly sacked 250 employees to save money.

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