Stick A Fork In Palm

from the 'cause-they're-done dept

Palm had done its best to whip up a frenzy leading up to today's announcement from founder Jeff Hawkins about some new mystery product. Well, it's here, and despite Hawkins' proclamation that it's "the most exciting product" he's ever worked on, the Foleo "smartphone companion" isn't exactly overwhelming. Basically, it's a $500 screen and keyboard for Treo smartphones, which the company is pitching as an email device. The Foleo syncs to a user's Treo inbox over Bluetooth, and lets users view and compose emails, and it features an Opera web browser and a photo-viewing application. Despite being based on Linux, it's a closed system, meaning users can't install their own applications and extend the device's usefulness. So apparently, "the future of computing", as Hawkins sees it, is in closed environments where a manufacturer decides exactly what a user can and can't do with their device.

It's hard to understand the point of the Foleo, or why Hawkins and Palm think it's so wonderful. There are two ways to see it: first, as an admission that Palm won't ever be able to create a Treo that will satisfy users' needs, or an admission that they think their Treos are perfect and this is the only way they can figure out to improve on it. Neither is particularly good for the company. The Foleo's hardly compelling, when $500 fully-featured laptops are pretty common these days, while the future lies in crafting more powerful and useful smartphones, not in simply relegating them to serve as a modem for a redundant bigger device. The unspoken marketing message here is that users need to shell out for the Foleo on top of a Treo because the smartphone doesn't deliver an acceptable user experience for mobile email. Palm would be far better off improving its outdated smartphones, instead of focusing on creating new (and pointless) product lines, but it's really beginning to look like that's asking too much of the company. Update: As noted in the comments, apparently the Foleo is open to external applications. As Palm puts it, "Its Linux-based operating system and built-in Wi-Fi radio make it easy for developers to create new applications that can be installed with a single click in the browser" -- though Palm's not released any information for developers, nor given any indication of how strongly it will engage the open-source community.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ajax 4Hire, May 30th, 2007 @ 11:59am

    Hope it runs Microsoft Bob;

     

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  2.  
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    Jezsik, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:00pm

    Where's Dell when we need 'm?

    I've been trying to find a smartphone replacement for my Dell Axim and having no luck at all. Why, oh WHY, can't someone take a perfectly good PDA and just stick a phone in it rather than try to turn a phone into a PDA?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    For somebody who uses a Treo heavily, and wants their "companion" device to just work, plainly and simply, without any hassle or ridiculous amount of maintenance, it's the perfect solution. Closed devices are NOT always a bad thing. I helped somebody hook up a Windows-based smart phone to a Windows laptop once to use as a wireless modem, and I can tell you right now that it's no treat. If you want to use it as a modem, you have to unplug the phone, go into configuration screens to change the modem settings, plug it back in, and have the laptop dialup. Then for the phone itself to be able to get on the internet or make phone calls, or even just sync data to it from the laptop, you have to go back in and change it all back again. Not my idea of a clean, simple solution for having a large screen and keyboard linked to your mobile device.

    This device connects to the Treo without needing a cable of any sort. It has an instant on/off feature, which avoids long boot times and unnecessary login prompts and whatnot that Windows would have. It requires no antivirus or antispyware packages (yet, anyway), and any software updates, if needed, probably won't be difficult to install. It gives you direct access to the email already on your Treo and allows you to easily work with attachments. Web browsing capability with the larger screen is a HUGE plus, and the picture manager is a nice touch. And having wifi internet capability is a big plus to help avoid large roaming bills if you're on the road.

    Believe me, this is not just another bad idea. Albeit spendy, it can be a very useful piece of equipment to business professionals all over. If your Treo is your life, then this is a dream come true.

     

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  4.  
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    shimon, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:16pm

    linux as closed system

    yeah right, linux closed system :)

    close till someone will leak a way to unlock-it or way to change system and keep current apps, add new :)

    if is good , will need to get open, software monopoly on system goes nowhere, but to product rejection by profesionals

     

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  5.  
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    Tom Greenhaw, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:19pm

    This could be a great thing...

    I've been waiting to smartphones to replace some laptop functionality for a while. If a wireless keyboard, mouse and monitor combo are connected to a smartphone, the smartphone's processor and storage could be used for basic office functions, large screen web browsing, access to web based applications, sales presentations, etc.

    Don't be too quick to judge Palm's first step in this direction...

     

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  6.  
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    sehlat (profile), May 30th, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    [sarcasm] Great! [/sarcasm]

    Now I have to carry *TWO* damned gadgets to get lost, stolen, or strayed?

     

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  7.  
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    Instructor, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:28pm

    Disappointed in Palm

    Having sprung for the $400 Lifedrive, and found that it is three orders of magnitude slower than my old Handspring Edge (damned thing takes 10+ SECONDS to turn on, off, or switch between applications), I doubt that I'll be buying ANYTHING from Palm again.

    --
    Texas CHL Evening Courses in Plano, TX

     

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  8.  
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    euclidjr, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:28pm

    This is the most exciting project Hawkins has ever

    Sometimes hyperbole doesn't really help you. This device comes right out of the gate to an exceedingly limited market - people with Treos who are not satisfied with the experience.

    I can't imagine that this will drive sales of Treos. Without it's own connectivity through WiFi at least, it's just a pricey Treo accessory and is thus, for most folks, worthless. Sure, some folks might hack it, but it will still keep it from ever being a mainline product.

    Upcoming UMPC's - including the rumored Apple sub-notebook - would likely crush any demand for this product. This looks like a fairly disappointing end of the line for Palm.

     

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  9.  
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    Amerin Tasx, May 30th, 2007 @ 1:39pm

    Well I was hoping

    I am a long time palm fan, Started with a III, to V, then to Handspring Color, to my current PDA is Treo 650.

    I have used Blackberry, and Windows Mobile devices, when company supplied, my personal phone/pda is still a Treo. The KISS properites have always kept me a fan.

    I was hoping for a palm with a huge screen, 3G data and a real browser from palm, that leaned away from the evil empires, (RIM & MS).

    If they are linux based anyways, where is Firefox on a PDA, fingers crossed, and coming to a handheld near you.
    Let me do away with all the crapy mobile versions of email, and browsers, and their crappy interfaces.

    The technology is there, Lets hope someone comes up with a browser based PDA, with a mobile phone embeded.

    Im currently looking for someone to do a Helio Ocean, with more robust features, and sleeker design, and a decent international plan.

    But thats just me. Im not Crackberry adicted like the rest of the Corprate world.

     

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  10.  
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    ehrichweiss, May 30th, 2007 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Where's Dell when we need 'm?

    Well they DID but it was the Handspring Visor and that's not exactly top of the line any more though I still use mine for certain tasks from time to time.

     

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  11.  
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    CHUCK, May 30th, 2007 @ 2:46pm

    Almost on target............

    I spend a lot of time traveling and surfing on my Treo600. email, web, todo, calender. What more can a guy want, except a bigger screen and KB to see a little more like google maps or GPS or attached images. It should weigh less than two cans of coke and fit in a backpack or on a airplane tray without taking the whole thing up ans most airplanes and cars have power so make a detachable battery. Fast boot, Linux based. What I really want is a sub notebook. A kneetop, and I just want to carry one item.

     

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  12.  
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    metroxing, May 30th, 2007 @ 2:47pm

    Absolutely Right

    You nailed it. Nothing more to add what you said - did he work on the Emate at Apple because this looks like that except it's in color - it's even got the clamshell cover. Yea, Palm - done.

     

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  13.  
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    Matt Brubeck, May 30th, 2007 @ 2:55pm

    Open or closed?

    I'm not sure where Techdirt gets its claim that the Foleo will be a closed device. The press release claims that "Its Linux-based operating system and built-in Wi-Fi radio make it easy for developers to create new applications that can be installed with a single click in the browser."

    On the other hand, there's no information for developers and Palm has not engaged the open-source world at all. (Compare this to the Nokia 770/N800, which had full source code and discounted hardware available to developers before it was even released.)

     

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  14.  
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    Carlo, May 30th, 2007 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Open or closed?

    Thanks for pointing that out, Matt, I've updated the post to reflect that. I missed that in the press release, and the materials about Foleo on the Palm site don't mention it at all.

     

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  15.  
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    Shun, May 30th, 2007 @ 4:22pm

    Too little too late?

    I would love to see this post be proven wrong, but this seems to be a product which is in the also-ran category. Palm seems to be desperately trying to be relevant, instead of pushing the cutting edge, like it used to do. Palm needs to kick RIM in the butt, and run the Nokia N800 over.

    CHUCK : I'm happy that this product will work well with current Treo owners, but what is it going to do for people *without* a current Palm product? Will it get me to rush out and buy Palm? We are in Big Gamble territory here.

    Compare this with the iPod or the iPhone (no, I am not an Apple fanboi, I just know good marketing when I see it.) and you see the contrast. Apple's strategy is focused on dominating the market. It didn't work for PCs, but they held on to music, and they are, with any luck, going to repeat that maneuver with phones.

    Palm seems to be focused on keeping their current users from migrating away. Palm needs to go on the offensive, with truly innovative products. Right now, I just don't see that happening.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2007 @ 5:18am

    Re: Where's Dell when we need 'm?

    Have you considered the O2 Flame, which was just released?

     

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  17.  
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    Sidd Vicious, May 31st, 2007 @ 6:29am

    Re: Where's Dell when we need 'm?

    I'd suggest looking at Samsung Blackjack. http://www.samsungblackjack.com/

     

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  18.  
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    Dan Mosqueda, May 31st, 2007 @ 7:48am

    Foleo: DOA

    It's dead and it hasn't even hit the market. The moral of the story: In two years, and that's being generous, Palm will be discontinuing the Foleo leaving behind a bunch of cheap products being auctioned off on E-Bay. The mass market and the executive with money to burn should buy a really great laptop and forget this future paperweight. www.danmosqueda.blogspot.com

     

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  19.  
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    Elaine, May 31st, 2007 @ 7:54am

    Palm Foleo NONSENSE

    Palm could have skipped over everyone (incl APPLE & itself) by incorporating the current TREO features into the T|X. Phone, Broadband, Large screen, Portable Keyboards, etc. They are tying to run us all around in circles like Windows has done since Windows 3.0, no, since the vintage '86 mac's.

     

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  20.  
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    Bench, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:19am

    Foleo might be a stroke of genius ... think TCO

    Sure, it's not for everyone, but Palm OS/Treo does have a loyal core of users. I only gave up my Treo under duress when our company standardized on RIM. But before dismissing this, consider: FINALLY! an instant-on laptop with instant wireless sync to your primary (mobile) device and a simple, sensible GUI. $500 might seem steep at first, but I'll bet the TCO on this UN-laptop is substantially lower than even the least-expensive Windows-based laptop.

    If they made this device for the Blackberry and loaded an ICA client on it, I could replace the laptops for my entire sales force. RIM should steal this idea, or get Palm to build them one.

    Don't underestimate the power of SIMPLE.

     

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  21.  
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    Bench, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:20am

    Foleo might be a stroke of genius ... think TCO

    Sure, it's not for everyone, but Palm OS/Treo does have a loyal core of users. I only gave up my Treo under duress when our company standardized on RIM. But before dismissing this, consider: FINALLY! an instant-on laptop with instant wireless sync to your primary (mobile) device and a simple, sensible GUI. $500 might seem steep at first, but I'll bet the TCO on this UN-laptop is substantially lower than even the least-expensive Windows-based laptop.

    If they made this device for the Blackberry and loaded an ICA client on it, I could replace the laptops for my entire sales force. RIM should steal this idea, or get Palm to build them one.

    Don't underestimate the power of SIMPLE.

     

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  22.  
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    Electrolux, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:25am

    Not a fork, but maybe a spoon

    I have doubts about this device, but I think it's worth a shot. I may get one for myself, but that's because I'm a linux user, which is certainly not the market they're aiming for.

    But, Techdirt, shame on you! You were dead wrong about this being a "closed system", and you had absolutely no reason to believe that it was before you went off half-cocked. Why should I respect your opinion on this or on anything else?

     

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  23.  
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    Sandy McMurray, Jun 1st, 2007 @ 11:19am

    Palm gets its groove back?

    Hawkins wants to recapture the magic of the original PalmPilot. Simplicity, hotsync, and instant on were killer features back then, and they're still compelling today.

    Foleo has a chance if Palm can attract Linux developers to its new 'platform.' Palm says the software development kit will be available when the first Foleos ship.

    It's not a home run, but it's worth watching. I'm interested and I don't even own a cell phone.

     

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  24.  
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    Semicharm, Jun 1st, 2007 @ 12:40pm

    Is it a mini notebook or a smart phone peripheral?

    There are a number of points in the linked article worth noting.

    "However, Palm believes that most smartphones based on Windows Mobile should work with little or no modification. Smartphones based on operating systems from Research in Motion, Apple, and Symbian likely can be supported with a modest software effort. The Foleo’s synchronization architecture is open, and Palm expects to work with third-party developers to support as many smartphones as possible."

    Apparently, it not inherently joined at the hip with Trio brand smartphones. The problem is "if you make it, will they come?"

    On the flip side:

    "Foleo is a powerful computer on its own. Its Linux-based operating system and built-in Wi-Fi radio make it easy for developers to create new applications that can be installed with a single click in the browser. The Foleo has a USB port, video-out port, headphone jack, and slots for SD and compact flash cards for memory expansion."

    It sounds like a Linux-based mini notebook. They didn't say what it's base memory or storage is. Knowing Palm, it won't be much. I think it's FAR too powerful for it to just be the simple smartphone peripheral that Palm is marketing it as, which is the real shame. I mean, the thing could be a portable video player, just throw in a software player and it can play videos off its SD card or streamed over it's WiFi, and with it's video output you could even put it up on a TV (not sure what the quality would be though...).

    Unfortunately, I think that Palm's attended market is quite small; only a few die hard Treo fans will buy it for that and only a few die hard Linux junkies will even realize the missed potential. Because of the extreme brand fragmentation of the phone market, no other smartphone users will even fathom that it could would work with their phone too and everyone else will just pass it over. Sure it would still have to run up against the mini note bookmarket, but making it the ring leader of an even smaller market is even worse.

     

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  25.  
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    GF, Jun 2nd, 2007 @ 10:51am

    Thank you for all comments

    Interesting. By reading all the comments, it seems that not much posters really study the functionality and the design concept of the device before they write the comments including "Carlo Logino".


    Carlo Logino wrote:

    "There are two ways to see it: first, as an admission that Palm won't ever be able to create a Treo that will satisfy users' needs, or an admission that they think their Treos are perfect and this is the only way they can figure out to improve on it."

    Firstly, Hawkin in an interview did mention about the shortcomings of the small smartphone device (all smartphone) are screen and keyboard size too small. It is very difficult to write a long document by using a thumb keyboard or virtual keyboard in the small screen, visit the website not specifically design for the small device and view the PDF file in a small device. This is the fact and nobody will deny.

    Secondly, the Foleo is not only for Treo. It does support Palm and Windows Mobile and will provide support to RIMM, iPhone, Symbian and Good in the future.

    Thirdly, Hawkin did mention the Treo suffered from the problem mentioned earlier even though Palm tried to provide the best experience to user, such as thumb keyboard for easy input and long battery life. If the smartphone companion can resolved the mentioned problem, they can design a smartphone without keyboard or other fancy design in the future. (Since Palm had designed Palm V, I believe they can design a fancy phone.)

    Fourthly, this article simply put in the information without confirming it. It will mislead some of the readers. Even though it has an update. (No guarantee people will come back to this site as it is so bias.)

    Lastly, it is stupid to compare a $500 laptop to Foleo. If based on this logic, nobody is willing to pay $2,000 for a light weight laptop. Are they stupid to pay $2,000 instead of $500?

     

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  26.  
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    Brian Carnell, Jun 5th, 2007 @ 11:17am

    Hmmm

    "Firstly, Hawkin in an interview did mention about the shortcomings of the small smartphone device (all smartphone) are screen and keyboard size too small. It is very difficult to write a long document by using a thumb keyboard or virtual keyboard in the small screen, visit the website not specifically design for the small device and view the PDF file in a small device. This is the fact and nobody will deny."

    This is absolutely true...which is why most of us who occasionally need to compose long documents on our Treos have purchased compact, fold-up keyboards and tiny mice that use Bluetooth. Takes up much less space *and* weight than the Foleo at about 1/4th the cost.

     

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  27.  
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    Brian Carnell, Jun 5th, 2007 @ 11:21am

    Alphasmart's Niche

    Just to add to my previous comment, the Foleo is simply a more expensive and nicer version of the sort of dedicated word processing products that Alphasmart makes for the educational market that also have a niche among writers and others (they even make a device running an older version of the Palm OS).

    There is certainly a niche market for this -- I'll certainly buy one after the product tanks and they're flooding these online at wholesale. But for the same price as the Foleo I can get a full fledged low-end Windows laptop and load it up with Ubuntu.

     

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  28.  
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    interval, Sep 4th, 2007 @ 4:55pm

    Foleo: DOA by Dan Mosqueda

    It took 4 months Dan; I linked back to this story on the story dated today (Sept. 4th, 2007) that Palm has killed the Foleo on or very near the week they were going to announce it as an official product. Think that this week's new iPod announcement from Apple helped?

     

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