May 1, 2009

image Technologizer notes that the Foleo may be reincarnated running webOS, Palm’s new operating system. Like Harry McCracken, I was sympathetic to the idea of Foleo when it was announced and before the netbook craze hit full-force. However, the requirement to have a cell phone tethered to what was otherwise a functional client resulted in a split personality. In contrast, Celio Corp.’s REDFLY takes a better approach by turning the “laptop” into a thin client, and completely relying on the snartphone’s operating system and connectivity, but the applications are not there yet for it to be a consumer product.)

A webOS-powered Foleo could have many of the characteristics that I ascribed to a potential iPhone OS-based clamshell without some of the iPhone’s limitations. Palm, of course, does not have the issue with smaller keyboards that Apple seems to, and webOS merrily supports multitasking in a way that is more visually akin to a PC user interface.. webOS is even slated to get support for desktop Flash nest year. And Palm has no fear about cannibalizing more expensive notebook PC sales (although it must be cognizant of netbook pricing, an issue that blindsided the initial Foleo).

Still, if the Foleo returns, it probably won’t be for a while. There is just too much opportunity for Palm in the smartphone space and the competition is thick. But it’s certainly an opportunity once the company has covered its international bases with webOS smartphones. Until then, feel free to go back to obsessing over Android-based netbooks.

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September 4, 2007

As Ed Colligan has announced in Palm’s official blog, the company has decided to cancel shipment of the Foleo mobile companion. My friends at Engadget who called for Palm to can the device have exhibited typical class and decorum in resisting the temptation to dance on the initial product’s grave or, perhaps more appropriately given its plans for future reanimation. Indeed, Palm pegs its decision to ice the device not on external criticism, but on taking time to focus on its smartphone platform (shades of Apple delaying Leopard to focus on the iPhone) and putting the Foleo and its phones on the same platform (which makes a lot of sense, given that they are both being based on Linux).

I was certainly a fan of the Foleo hardware, less so on its initial positioning, and hope the device indeed returns. In the interim, it would be great to see Palm work native e-mail capabilities, video and WiMAX into the the “Foleo II.” Until then, bring on the EEE. And hey, Palm, if you need to get rid of one of those preproduction Foleos, let’s talk.

May 31, 2007

Palm’s first product was a device that fit in your pocket designed as a companion to products with a big screen and keyboard. It’s latest is a device with a big screen and keyboard designed as a companion to products that fits in your pocket.

I’ll have more to say about Foleo soon, but couldn’t resist pointing out that bit of irony. For now, I’ll say it’s not the only paradox of Palm’s latest mobile companion.

January 13, 2011

By itself, the Atrix was but one of the dozen or so large-screened Android smartphones that invaded CES 2011, but what really set it apart was its lapdock accessory. This clamshell combination of a full-sized keyboard, screen and battery allow the Atrix to function more like a Linux smartbook.

Extending the processing and connectivity of a smartphone to notebook proportions is, of course, not a new idea. The pre-Elevation Palm sort of tried it with the Foleo, which was a mostly independent device and in some ways a closer ancestor to the BlackBerry Playbook. Celio implemented it with the Redfly, although that product was tied to the unpopular Windows Mobile OS and later BlackBerry, where it was poorly integrated. Rather than a dock, both solutions were able to use bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth to pair the input and output enhancement to the phone. In the case of the Redfly, a cable could also be used.

The Atrix 4G lapdock solution seems like it will work better than those approaches, but in the excitement over a smartphone that can apparently transform into a laptop, I think we’ve been too quick to overlook the lapdock’s strange design, in which the Atrix is docked behind the screen. This allows for easy connection and disconnection of the smartphone, but it doesn’t allow for use of both screens simultaneously. More importantly, it doesn’t allow you to easily transport the docked Atrix within the lapdock. I’d be surprised if a competitor taking a crack at this didn’t make it so that the phone is inserted securely inside the clamshell, allowing for sufficient ventilation, of course.

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April 28, 2010

So, it looks as though Lenovo wasn’t the global PC maker that would up with Palm. Instead it was Palm’s Silicon Valley neighbor HP, which has been dipping its toe in WinMo waters for the past few years. WebOS will help diversify mobile offerings from the computing giant, which faced the prospects of facing tough software differentiation under Windows Phone 7 — a dilemma from its PC business that it likely had no desire to repeat in the handset space

Palm gains access to HP’s vast R&D resources, global distribution and corporate clout while HP gains instant entry into the carrier portfolios of three of the four major U.S. carriers as well as an increasing number abroad. In the post-iPhone world, it’s clear that major PC companies need to have a serious play in the handset market. WebOS is an elegant, powerful operating system, but its performance continues to need help and Palm did not have the bandwidth to focus on suddenly hot tweener devices years after the fall of the Foleo and months after the rise of the iPad. WebOS may appear in HP smartbooks such as the Compaq Air’Life and perhaps even down the road as an embedded pre-boot environment. This seems to be a good fit from a technology and product offerings perspective.

There’s more to come on this story, to be sure.

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September 26, 2008

Engadget’s been harshing on the Celio Redfly pretty severely since its debut; I suppose anything that’s even calls to mind the Foleo is going to leave a bad taste in their editorial mouths. When I first saw the device, though, I thought that $200 would be a key price point for something marketed as a smartphone accessory, so Celio will certainly pick up some interesting data points in October. At least some commenters on the Engadget post announcing the promotion think they might give the device a try at $199.

I’ve also been trying out the Redfly for a couple of weeks. It’s definitely not for everyone at this point and most consumers would be better served by a netbook that is closer to its (non-promotional) price. But one glance at the company Web site’s mention of “TCO” tells you that the company is targeting enterprise users for now. At least it is solidly positioned as a terminal, unlike the Foleo that tried to be both a smartphone companion and a new platform.

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December 10, 2007

15-inch MacBook ProWith the 2008 Macworld Expo around the chronological corner and Apple finally in (and by the looks of initial success, for the long term) the cell phone and set-top categories, rumor-mongers are running out of easy targets. One of these is an Apple ultraportable or MacBook mini. It’s not an unreasonable one at all as Sony, for example, is already in the sub-12" market.

In general, ultraportable notebooks have been slow sellers in the U.S. That was before the invasion of the cheap Asus EEE (and coming competitors) but Apple isn’t generally known for swooping in at the low end of the market.. Also, Sony has the right idea in embedding WWAN connectivity in its ultaportables; Apple, on the other hand, has even put off 3G in its cell phones. Still, Apple’s notebook market share continues to grow, so the timing may be right.

As I’ve written, Apple can take a few different paths here. The company could do a great job of something integrated with Foleo-like physical dimensions (sorry, 7" is just too small for OS X (and arguably other desktop operating systems, too), bundling an iWork suite for more of a mobile productivity appliance for $599. If it went this route, the device might not even be called a MacBook. But if Apple’s notebook family grows by shrinking next month, it’s far more likely that it will be a premium-priced 12" MacBook Pro with an SSD.

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November 26, 2007

RCR Wireless has an amusing retrospective where it looks at some of the biggest wireless flops ever to attempt a connection. Actually, some of them weren’t cell phones (the infamous Gizmondo) or even had a cellular radio (the once and perhaps future Foleo). Mike Dano reaches way back into the circular files to retrieve the NeoPoint 1000 smartphone, though. Amazon, which often acts as a museum for discontinued products, has the CDMA handset’s vital stats.

The photoguide finishes off with the Motorola T900 pager and the demise of the paging industry (kingpin SkyTel is still around although SmartBeep, late of the humorous commercials, is gone). Let’s not forget, though, that two-way paging was the birthplace of the Blackberry. My question, though, is how can any such history be complete without Modo?

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August 23, 2007

Not long after my two-part column offering a more moderate pespective on the Foleo, a few of my favorite Engadget editors penned an open letter to Palm that received a chorus of amens from the community and rightly so. I don’t think you’ll find anyone in Palm’s management who doesn’t understand the software opportunity and the sad fate of the original Palm OS through its long period of misguided development and subsequent neglect amidst a dizzying series of management changes. And, yes, the Treo needs to slim down. But a slim Treo is only table stakes as a number of strong competitors (Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Apple) have slim smartphones. My Blackberry 8800 is not noticeably thicker than the T-Mobile Dash either.

So, while the open letter raises a lot of issues that Palm needs to address, following its advice is not going to allow Palm to move ahead and differentiate. It would be like telling Nintendo in the GameCube days that they needed to support HDTV because Sony and Microsoft were going to in their next generation or telling Apple that they needed to switch to Intel processors before they had introduced the iMac and titanium PowerBooks.

July 10, 2007

Meandering down a path well tred over at least the past five years, Robert Scoble asks if 2008 is the year of Linux on the desktop. I wrote a bit about the growing enthusiasm for Linux, including Dell’s embrace of Ubuntu, for a recent LAPTOP column.

The answer to the question is no, but Linux is spearheading the move of low-cost ultraportables such as the Foleo into.. whatever markets they are targeting. I’m increasingly intrigued by the Asus EEE which, contrary to my earlier post, seems poised to become a reality later this year. Indeed, I can’t decide whether I like the idea of the 7″ $199 or 10″ 299 model better. The former price resonates more as a companion product. If I’m springing for a high-resolution screen, I’m probably interested in tasks that are better-suited to a more mainstream Windows notebook. HotHardware has an informative article that spotlights the two Linux UIs being considered.