Give this to the folks running Palm: At least management had enough insight to realize the company was about to commit one of the biggest blunders in recent tech history.
Palm late Tuesday announced its decision to cancel its Foleo mobile companion only four months after its co-founder, superstar developer Jeff Hawkins, gave the product's first public demonstration at the D5 conference. A $500 mobile companion for e-mail was going to be an impossible sell, so maybe this is a good contrarian sign to Palm investors that the company isn't as brain-dead as some of its harsher critics suggest.
Of course, you would never guess this was anything less than a bold and brave strategy move after reading the talkback postings on the Palm blog announcing the Foleo cancellation. The gist of the comments: Gee you're brilliant. What insight. And you smell like fresh lavender.
When you consider the flame wars that regularly attend even minor technology events, what's to explain this singular lack of passion? Maybe someone was sharing a big post-Labor Day mix of acid-spiked Kool-Aid. For the record, a PR spokeswoman told me Palm doesn't edit out negative comments.
So it goes. But why mince words? The Foleo very well may go down in history as this generation's equivalent of Microsoft Bob, another ill-considered flop that so traumatized its chief product manager that she decided to quit the business and marry Bill Gates.
Of course, the chief distinction here is that Microsoft's reputation wasn't riding on Bob.
As for Hawkins, who signed up for the thankless task of convincing the digerati that the Foleo would usher in a new product category, what does he think about all this? (Jeff, you've got my e-mail if you want to dish.) Considering all that's happened, it's safe to assume he wishes he could retract his quote that the Foleo was the best idea he ever had.