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.
Tags: Android, Atrix 4G, celio, CES 2011, Foleo, lapdock, Motorola Mobility, netbooks, Palm, Redfly, smartbook, smartphone
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.
Tags: AirLife, Android, HP, iPhone, Palm, smartbooks, smartphones, Windows Phone 7
April 16, 2010
Now that Palm is apparently up for sale there seems to be as many alleged reasons for its struggles as there are people serving them up. One of the most popular ones is that Palm should not have
Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein has expressed some regret that Palm couldn’t launch on Verizon earlier and vie for the kind of promotion that the Droid received. Even if Palm had had the Pre for only three months, though, it’s doubtful that Verizon Wireless would have jumped in with as much support after Sprint had the opportunity to debut Palm’s handsets, even with the “Plus” enhancements.
Sure, it would have been better to ride the twin horses of AT&T and Verizon to higher market share, but Sprint was the best deal Palm could get. It believed in Palm and the platform, and offered strong marketing support. Sprint is still the third largest U.S. carrier. Its 50 million customers were more than an ample base into which Palm products could be sold, and its 3G network generally has good coverage and very good speed.
The strongest argument against blaming Sprint for disappointing WebOS volume, though, is to contrast it against the launch of the T-Mobile G1, which launched on a carrier with fewer subscribers, lower ARPU, and (at the time) an embryonic 3G network, but which still managed to sell a million units in its first quarter of availability and set the stage for continued Android growth throughout 2009.
Tags: blame, launches, Palm, Sprint
May 1, 2009
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.
Tags: Foleo, iPhone OS, netbooks, Palm, webOS
March 18, 2009
I disagree with the Gizmodo assessment that Kevin Rose was spot on with his iPhone predictions. It was a pretty safe bet to say that copy and paste would be in and multitasking would remain out. Of course, he was wrong on MMS and ignored the new functionality available to developers. But where he really missed the mark was saying that iPhone OS 3.0 would answer the functionality of the forthcoming Palm Pre.
Some of the Pre’s signature software features are (foremost to me) the Synergy integration of Web data, unobtrusive notifications, and a sleek multitasking “card” interface for applications. (The last has already seen a similar implementation for Web pages in Safari for iPhone.) Still, here was no mention of support of anything like those features. iPhone OS 3.0 adds universal search, but the implementation is different than Palm’s. Besides, I see that mostly as more of a blow against RIM, as the BlackBerry’s e-mail search was a distinct advantage that it had over the iPhone. I was surprised (although pleased) to see stereo Bluetooth support added, but this is of course a feature that many phones support.
Indeed, much of the focus yesterday was on the richness of the iPhone’s API that now incorporates even more of the capabilities available in desktop Mac OS as well as a wide range of new device support for the dock connector (although maddeningly no keyboard support via it or Bluetooth). Palm has likely avoided competing head-to-head against Apple’s rich developer infrastructure and dock connector ecosystem because of Apple’s strength.
There may well be more that Apple has up its sleeve before iPhone 3.0 rolls out. For example, given the multitouch conflict between Apple and Palm, I was surprised to see no new multitouch gestures rolled out. (Even MacBook trackpads are evolving their use of multitouch faster than the iPhone.) But for the moment, it appears that Apple and Palm are each playing to their strengths.
Tags: Apple, iPhone, iPhone OS 3.0, Kevin Rose, Palm, Pre
August 22, 2008
I had a chance to talk with Palm today and get some hands-on time with the Treo Pro, which will be offered unlocked in the U.S. for $549. Perhaps at some point, Palm will get AT&T to pick it up (it doesn’t support T-Mobile’s 1700 MHz 3G network) and those willing to commit to a two-year contract will be able to pick it up for $299 or less.
In short, I liked what I saw — the appearance, feel, the finish, and — most importantly — the direction toward accommodating users with thoughtful touches. In at least one respect, though, Palm is behind the curve. Palm is retaining reliance on the stodgy old stylus with its touch interface. This is an enterprise device and there are good reasons for Palm to shy away from developing an overlay like the consumer-oriented TouchFLO that take Windows Mobile in a lush but inconsistent direction. Palm touts the Treo Pro as embodying work-life balance, but we won’t really get a true sense of its approach to lifestyle mobility until next year.
I’ll be sharing a trio of perspectives about the Treo Pro in the near future.
Tags: Palm, treo pro
September 28, 2007
I swung by DigitalLife this afternoon and checked out the two big hardware introductions at the show, the Gateway One and the Palm Centro and came away with more favorable impressions. The Gateway One looks a bit like the iMac might have if Apple had continued with the polycarbonate gloss but made it black. It’s more wedge-like than the iMac’s thin “where’s the computer?” look, but may just be the best-looking desktop PC in the market. The multifunction power brick, by the way, is massive but, hey, so is the Xbox 360′s and you can’t plug a tanning lamp into it.
The Palm Centro looks better in black than red and the keyboard, while small, wasn’t that bad even under my large fingers, although part of that may be my greater experience with inferior keyboards in the past few years. I still don’t think the sub-$100 crowd will see a lot of the remaining value left in Palm OS as the consider the Centro versus Sidekicks, EnVs and slim Windows Mobile smartphones with QWERTY keyboards, but EV-DO is a nice plus and the integrated instant messaging looked nice from a cursory glance.
Tags: Centro, DigitalLife, Gateway One, Palm