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 Palm would be far better off improving its outdated smartphones, instead of focusing on creating new (and pointless) product lines, but it’s really beginning to look like that’s asking too much of the company.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.