While I was all tied up in marathon meetings yesterday Kevin was all over the Palm announcement of their new Foleo "smartphone companion". I’ve been giving the Foleo a lot of thought and thought I’d share those thoughts with you, dear readers. What to make of the Palm Foleo? I really don’t know. It’s a strange product searching for a market that’s for sure. Palm obviously looked at all the millions of Treos they have sold over the past few years and in some meeting down the line someone said "why don’t we produce the ultimate Treo accessory?" because at the base level that’s what the Foleo is.
Let’s look at the Foleo and pool what we know about it so far. It’s a2.5 pound laptop with a 10-inch screen that runs some form of Linux.It has no hard drive that I’m aware of and some unknown amount ofsystem RAM. It has WiFi and Bluetooth and not much else. Palm is nottrying to produce a real laptop here, it’s a companion device for thosewho use their smartphones for data connectivity and email. When thefirst Palm PDA was introduced Palm used the Apple philosophy- make anattractive device at a reasonable price that is drop dead simple touse. This is what they are trying to do with the Foleo with its onebutton syncing and the fact it’s not a full blown sub-notebookcomputer. The question is will that work this time with the Foleo? Idon’t think so.
The Foleo is as big and heavy as some laptops, even if its cheaper with its $599 MSRP. I know they are offering it at $499 for early adopters but don’t overlook the fact that the real price is $600. That makes the Foleo a pretty expensive accessory for a smartphone in my book. You’ve already plunked down some serious cash for your phone, now you need to throw more money at it to make a viable mobile communications solution. The price of playing in Palm’s mobile game just went up dramatically.
Palm is also approaching the mobile problem from the core unit perspective. Their promotion has you keeping everything (documents, photos, music, etc.) on your phone which you then sync to the Foleo. This is opposite what most people do today, keeping the information on the laptop and bringing to the phone only what you actually need. That has always worked well given how much more capable notebooks are than phones and I’m not sure Palm can convince the market otherwise. I mean, do you really want to stuff everything into your phone just so you can access it on the Foleo?
The form factor of the Foleo is the biggest drawback in my book. Who wants to carry a 2.5 pound dumb terminal around everywhere? Not me and I suspect not a lot of other folks. If I am going to carry around something that big and heavy it better carry its own weight, so to speak. The Foleo is not capable enough to justify that for me. I’ve also heard it mentioned that the Foleo will not play audio nor video. If that’s true then there’s even less justification for enticing me to carry the extra bulk. Even Palm’s own Treos will play audio and video.
So will Palm be able to move a lot of these units? I don’t know but I suspect they will find it a hard road ahead of them. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of a smartphone extension but I think the Foleo is too big and heavy to make it a viable option for the road warrior. That rushing sound you hear is the sound of the Palm stock free fall.