Palm's been in trouble for awhile now. The company that really revolutionized/mainstreamed the PDA has been getting left behind by the smartphones of the world for a few years now. Yeah, I know, legions of Treo owners stand by their handsets, but many of them have left the Palm OS in favor of Windows Mobile-runnin' Treos.
When word broke that Palm CEO Jeff Hawkins was going to unveil a "third category of Palm devices" at the D: All Things Digital conference this week, Palm fans gasped a collective breath of hope. Maybe the spirit of innovation and vision was back at Palm.
What Hawkins dropped on us from the stage in southern California was the Foleo, Palm's new "smartphone companion," that's caught somewhere in No Man's Land between the Treo and a full-on laptop. If you've ever played tennis, you know what happens when you get caught in No Man's Land: you wind up flat-footed watching the ball whiz just past your shoestrings. Sadly, rather than creating a buzz with Foleo, Hawkins seems to have created a sound something more like the ball that is mobile computing whizzing on past his flat feet.
Foleo is a Linux-based device with a 10-inch display and full sized keyboard that looks like a subnotebook computer. Alas, the $500 (after rebate), 2.5 pound device actually needs to be connected (via Bluetooth) to a Treo smartphone to really be of much use. While Foleo does pack built-in WiFi, apparently that connection can only be used for Web browsing - email requires pairing with an online Treo. Huh? Considering that Palm's Website is hawking the thing as an Email-centric gadget, and that all it seems to be built for is Email, Email attachments, and Web surfing, why would anyone spend $500 on this and not a laptop that can do all that and then some?
I mean, a $75 Bluetooth keyboard to make your Treo more usable is one thing to buy and carry around. But what's essentially a crippled laptop? For $500? I really don't get it. If I wasn't actually trying to reduce the amount of time I spent in front of screens each day, I'd pay $500 for a QWERTY-packing smartphone with a nice big screen and WiFi. Because that would let me stay on top of Email and work-related Web pages while leaving my laptop at home. Isn't that the idea behind mobile electronics, carrying less stuff around?
Maybe I'm missing something here. Tell me if I am. But it seems like Palm introduced a revolutionary new computer that does a little bit less than my Apple PowerBook Duo 230 did back in 1992. Although Foleo does do it in color.
Sorry, Palm fans. I think today might just go down in history as the day the music died for y'all