May 30, 2007 4:02 PM PDT

Is Foleo Palm's folly?

Is Foleo Palm's folly?
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Palm's bid to reinvent mobile computing looks an awful lot like the current state of mobile computing, but with less horsepower.

Company founder Jeff Hawkins unveiled the Foleo device at the D: All Things Digital conference on Wednesday. Foleo is a 2.5-pound laptop PC with a 10-inch display that runs Linux. It's designed to let smart phone users read and respond to their e-mail and documents on a full keyboard with a larger screen, Hawkins said.

The idea seems to be that users of smart phones like Palm's Treo, who don't want to carry a regular Windows or Mac laptop on business trips, could use the $499 Foleo (the price comes after a $100 mail-in rebate) as a companion device to prevent their thumbs from cramping up after a long day of dashing off e-mail. It uses flash memory, so it turns on quickly without a long boot process and syncs up with a smart phone running Windows Mobile or Palm OS over a Bluetooth connection.

However, the Foleo uses an underpowered processor that isn't really suited for video, Hawkins admitted. It gets five hours of battery life. It wasn't designed to be a standalone product apart from its smart phone, although it can use its Opera browser to surf the Web over a built-in Wi-Fi connection.

It doesn't sync calendar appointments, just e-mail and contacts. And it doesn't work yet with widely used mobile e-mail products such as Research In Motion's BlackBerry software or Motorola's GoodLink software.

"I think it's probably the most disappointing product I've seen in several years," said Todd Kort, an analyst with Gartner. "To think that anyone would carry something with a 10-inch display at 2.5 pounds as an adjunct to a phone just doesn't make any sense to me."

The Foleo becomes the latest attempt at developing the "one true mobile device"--a quest that's growing increasingly crowded as PC companies push gadgets like ultramobile PCs and smart-phone companies try to outdo each other's sleek designs. And, as you might have heard, later this month Apple's iPhone will enter the field.

Foleo

Hawkins said Palm will initially target heavy users of wireless e-mail who are looking for a portable device to ease the burden of relying on a smart phone as a primary computing device. It's hard to work with documents inside the small window afforded by a smart phone, and almost impossible to read e-mail at a quick glance without a lot of scrolling. That's why most smart-phone users still need to bring their laptops along on business trips--because any serious typing can't be done on a Treo, BlackBerry or a Motorola Q.

Palm thinks these people would be willing to spend the $499 to get a device that could make them more productive without having to resort to lugging around a bulky laptop on short trips. But road warriors truly concerned about laptop weight can choose from dozens of 2- to 3-pound ultraportable laptop PCs that offer far more capabilities than the Foleo, analysts say.

This is a small category of PC user. Ultraportable laptop sales only accounted for 1.5 percent of the U.S. retail PC market in the fourth quarter of last year--the busiest PC shopping season, said Samir Bhavnani, an analyst with Current Analysis West. Smart-phone users are also a small percentage of the overall cell phone market, which means a pretty small portion of the population might be feeling the pain described by Hawkins, Bhavnani said.

If you're a mobile user who's familiar with the limits of a smart phone and you don't want to carry a standard 5-pound laptop, you've probably already bought an ultraportable laptop, Gartner's Kort said.

"If you're on a two- to three-day business trip, and if (Foleo's) almost as big and almost as heavy, why not just carry the notebook?" Kort said. Business users will still need a regular PC to handle their corporate applications, and home users aren't going to want a laptop that can't show video or play games, he said.

But the attractive price could help sway some converts. The average U.S. retail cost of an ultraportable laptop was $1,778 in the first quarter of this year. That compares with the $851 it cost to buy an average laptop, and the $499 Palm wants for the Foleo, according to Current Analysis West.

And while this is a first-generation product that might not wow early adopters, it could draw more interest as developers create more applications, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

"It could be an interesting device as a standalone low-cost Linux computer," Bajarin said. But that's one of those chicken-and-the-egg questions: You're not going to get a lot of developers interested in a product unless there's sizable demand for the product. And there isn't going to be as much demand for a product that doesn't have a lot of applications, he said.

CONTINUED: Searching for a new hit…
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18 comments

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Foleo is a great initial idea
I love the instant-on aspect. Most (95%) of my computing needs are email and web browsing. Many of the tools I use for work are now web-based. I think the Foleo concept, if it can be expanded upon, will prove very exciting. Given that it offers WiFi, you might have one in the kithchen to look up recipes (spill-proof keyboard being a necessity). You can have one next to your TV remote for looking up information that you saw on TV very quickly. In general, having instant-on and -off access and long battery life will have you going online much more often (much to my wife's chagrin).
Posted by mexnerd (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great idea ... but
1) It's gotta include OpenOffice; and
2) It's gotta include a CF slot to allow for storage handling.
Posted by dsloves (2 comments )
Link Flag
Agreed:
It's a great initial idea. It doesn't give Laptop users a place to turn too though. It doesn't give a forward path for Palm users.

The second generation will need to be stronger and explore a lot of uncharted ground if this (and Palm) are going to survive.

Potential? Yes. What's that potential? Time will tell.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
Link Flag
You can type on an iPhone
and surf the web and do email and make your calls. Looks to me like the iPhone will be the big hit.
Posted by expatincebu (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Slow Hit
"Looks to me like the iPhone will be the big hit."

Without 3G, the iPhone will be the next slow hit.
Posted by regulator1956 (577 comments )
Link Flag
Jack
You can't do jack on an iphone.

Its not out yet. Please wait and see what its like before telling us how great it is.
Posted by ScottMo (71 comments )
Link Flag
Close, but no cigar.
Niche product. Even if the Foleo gains some success and sales, it
will be outclassed by subnotebooks of similar size AND price within
a year.
Posted by thriftyT (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows laptops aren't instant-on
My laptop takes more than a minute to boot and receive a wifi signal...and that's with a relatively fast CPU!! As with most technology, the Foleo will probably drop in price. Remember the first Treos were about $500-600 and now sell for $200-300.
Posted by mexnerd (5 comments )
Link Flag
Awesome!
UltraMobile PCs don't need Windows Vista, nor do they need to bring a fully equipped computer that's good for only two hours.

I want one of these, and so should everyone who writes letters, memos, e-mails and surfs the web.

What's more, it runs Linux, so it'll have tons of software within weeks of its released.

It uses little power, so it's great for extended use, or even for Bittorrent, Limewire, and other P2P uses.

It's the perfect complement to every full-featured desktop or laptop, which can be left at home or in the office most of the time.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No thank you...
Its sounds ok I guess. But in my opinion if your going to have to
carry something that is almost the same weight and size as a full
laptop then why not get a full laptop? I have no use for a device
thats only function is to surf the web and do email. But thats just
me. I do like the "instant on" and the fact that it all flash based
memory. However, I would gladly wait for a boot to have a full
featured OS.
Posted by jones_8099 (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Foleo is a full fledged Linux OS laptop with flash based storage.
In case you've missed that. That's what it is.

It's marketed as an ultralightweight companion, but in reality it's a Linux computer that will run lots of Linux software. It has USB expansion, it has bluetooth and Wi-Fi, it has a useable keyboard.

OpenSource being what it is, I'd expect to see hundreds of Linux pots within the first months of introduction.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
no blackberry/video support..then who's it for??
the device is aimed at business users, but can't support the platform most business users utilize, blackberry. how does that make sense??
and if palm's intention was to have this product creep into consumer's hands, if it can't do the fun things, like video, that consumers demand it won't ever make it to consumer's hands.

the product seems to either be ill-conceived or pre-maturely introduced. maybe when blackberry intros its new application that allows windows mobile 6 users to access the blackberry-sphere, and palm has a treo that runs windows mobile 6, then we may have something that could interest corporate road warriors.
Posted by brokenpooter (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Oh how we forget!
Sure this "first edition" of the Foleo seems well, lackluster. But, think of the possibilities. We have laptops, pdas, smart phones, etc., but the Nokia N800 tablet seems to be doing OK for itself. Equally limited, but by other ways. No integrated keyboard, does have an OSD keyboard. This could be really great with some fine tuning, to use standalone even. Like watching TV and surfing the web. Or catching up on some email. Sure a cheap laptop cost as much, and is more functional, but they get awfully hot sitting on the lap. The potential is there. It needs some tweaking. Think of it as a web pad. One thing I would suggest, Allow the screen to swivel into a tablet.
Posted by bjwhaw (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wrap it up, I'll take it
No earth shattering technology here, so the propeller-heads are pissed. Just a well thought out product that some people (including me) will find very useful.
Posted by reidme314 (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The device is a brilliant
I have already purchased a Bluetooth keyboard for my smartphone, because although I can thumb emails, editing them effectively on the phone is a nightmare. And I can't view pdf's or Office documents properly, or edit the latter on the phone. It appears that the Foleo will address those two essentials seamlessly, so I can leave my laptop behind. (I do want it slimmed down to under 1 lb.)
Posted by Errowen (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
goo
Many people are debating on how great the iPhone will really be? the fact of the matter is that Apple has the most loyal customer base in its industry. It will sell regardless. It?s iPhone time

I love hearing about the iPhone. I?ve seen pictures. It?s pretty slick. Looks really nice.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iphone-video-converter.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.iphone-video-converter.org</a>
Posted by Jackson123r (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Foleo
One of the very important things that was missed and what makes the Foleo great is that you don't have to find an Internet connection or wi-fi hot spot to send and receive email and the like.
Posted by GoTerps76 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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