What to make of the Palm Foleo?


FoleoWhile 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.


Joe T.

The average person will want to carry only a lighweight phone; they don’t need or want to be always internet-connected–they’ll get that at home and/or work sometime later in the day.

For cases when they change to a different, unconnected base of operations (vacation home, or car/truck), it’s not difficult to lug the Foleo once to that base of operations. Now they can be mildly internet-connected. A poor-man’s Treo/EVDO experience for little money.

Having said that, I think you’re right:
1. Average person is likely more as you portrayed: cellphone does everything, no extra gadgets, never. Thrify person I envisioned probably isn’t common, seems like a cheap geek (hey, I’ve had an infrared modem for my PDA!).
2. As you point out, it’s probably not worth the price of admission. $200 Foleo might be tempting, $400 needs more gusto.
3. My scenario also depends on the current Verizon pricing differential, $50 ($80 on PC?) vs. $5. Who knows what pricing and competition will appear soon to obsolete the $5 option?
4. It may be a bad assumption that a cheap phone and web browser will be supported by the Foleo.

Mike Cane

Yeah, but are average people going to want to take this around with them all the time for what you admit are rare instances of using email on the go? Is that worth the price of admission?

You’d be surprised at how often I see people settling for using the cam in their *phone* instead of “lugging” a second device!

Joe T.

Web e-mail access anywhere, for the masses?

Most of you are power users. Think about the non-power user, someone without a $50/mo. data plan. And with a not terribly smart phone (e.g., Moto e815, LG 8300, …, with 2.3″ diagonal screen), obtained for $50 with a 2-year data plan. There are more of these picturephone/MP3 playing phones sold than Treos and such. When average Joe/Jane goes on vacation, e-mail/web checking is possible only via Internet Cafes, or hotel or public wifi if you’re willing to take along a full-fledged (fragile) PC or some internet device.

Verizon offers a $5/mo. web service on these lesser phones. But not many buy this $5 extra plan because of the unsatisfactory experience using the tiny screen and numberpad. If these grades of phones and that particular web browser were supported by the Foleo…

Power users take for granted their great anytime access (because it’s a business-deductible expense?).
Average (thrifty) users would love to have average anytime access on the cheap. Sure it takes a big device for readability, but that’s exactly what they want: a bigger screen with keyboard. Could you also make it robust and instant-on?

Uh, going on vacation tomorrow, I guess I’ll find out if this makes any sense in about 10 days when my thrifty self can again access the wonderful internet.


My opinion is that this device is very innovative. We’ve been clamoring for an instant-on device for years. We will never see that in a full-blown Windows based device. For what is expected of the device (IE, Office Apps, email, and web browsing) it sounds like a nice device. What I think we need to look at is that this is a semi-closed system. The OS can be optimized to be very efficient since the hardware is fixed and cannot be modified. Hence the OS is probably very light and can boot from a small flash. Personally, I’d buy this.

From a newbie perspective, this sounds like Palm’s version of Sideshow, only bigger with a real OS. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store!

Aaron Walker

It’s simply not powerful enough at a price that is too high to justify a purchase.

I have a smartphone with a qwerty keyboard but I never, ever, ever think about how great it would be if I could hook it up to a larger monitor to surf the web or answer e-mails.

Why? My web surfing is done on a desktop (mostly for research and/or leisure), and I can answer e-mail with the built in keyboard on my phone.

But I do think Palm is testing the water. After reading the mostly negative potential users thoughts, they would be wise to significantly rethink the Folio or abandon it all together and go back to the drawing board. Just hope it won’t be another five years before they decide to introduce a new device. They are falling further and further behind. My first 3 PDAs were Palm’s so I do have a soft spot for them.

I wonder what the Folio would look like as an 8 inch P1610 like device running Ubuntu Linux that offered the same easy sync? That would be a better device at or near the same price point that might get more people’s (positive) attention.


It’s like a grown up OGO.

It’d be cool to have an instant on device that just did wifi for gmail, google reader, blogs, etc. and a decent size keyboard.

I’d pay 399 for that, it’d be handy.

Frank McPherson

The bigger story to me is, after all the secrecy this is what Jeff Hawkins waw working on? There is nothing innovative here.

Mike Cane

Why would the Flopeo succeed when those better-built HPCs (the 2nd generation larger ones) failed? It won’t.

Hanno Zulla

(I wrote that elsewhere already:) The Foleo reminds me a lot of the Windows CE “Jupiter” Handheld PC, which was introduced sometime around 1998.

And that one wasn’t much of a success.

Art Kavanagh

In my view, Pam is thinking along the right lines. I see this as a potential replacement for my Nokia N800, with a bigger screen and a real, built-in keyboard. In essence, it’s a carry-around web browser with a few incidental functions, such as the ability comfortably to key in substantial amounts of text (assuming that the keyboard is as described). Not everybody wants one of those, of course. I’ve been looking for one for ages.

I admit it’s heavier than I’d have liked, but the absence of a hard disk makes me feel more comfortable about throwing it in a backpack or just tucking it under my arm and heading for the coffee shop, the library or wherever I happen to be going.


As someone has already stated, $399 would be a better price.

Also, where’s the built-in webcam for conference calling? or are we supposed to strap our smartphone to the top of the LCD? A webcam would give this device another use – Super (WiFi) Skype phone.


I posted this to OP but it fits here too:

There is actually a big innovation, but it’s just not for us!

We wan’t to be able to do all computing on our umpcs, install sw, watch videos etc,

but there is a lot of people who needs computers just for email and banking.

Having this device without the hasle of full os, viruses, settings etc. they can just access their emails…

… it’s good for those… not for me.

There could actually be even bigger market for this device than umpcs…

…. specially if they can make the use really simple and if they can support most of the smartphones.

Bill Koslosky, MD

It’s basically a touch typing machine. That doesn’t excite me much for $500. As far as Web browsing, I’m also using other apps when I’m researching on the Web, so again this device doesn’t cut it.

I think the Next Big Thing, or at least the next thing that will generate gadget lust, will be a UMPC or a small Linux tablet like the Nokia N800 that will be powerful enough (processor & RAM) to support speech recognition. Then you’ll forget about typing forever.



I agree with much of your assessment, but an odd thing happened to me last night. While searching for a device to recommend to a friend who is mobile only on ocassion (she’s planning a trip now), I considered the Palm TX and the Nokia internet tablets (N800 and 770). The only thing my friend wants to do is get her email with attachment support, surf the web, and IM (and perhaps a terminal session or two), but there is no way she would opt for working with the Treo’s small screen.

Although I was disappointed with the Foleo announcement earlier in the day, I realized last night that the Foleo would fit my friend’s needs. Although she is perfectly capable of using a full-blown laptop (she’s a systems analyst), she is also the type of person who prefers drop-dead simple for her mobile computing needs. So, perhaps the Foleo does have a future, but only if Palm lowers the price; $399 sounds a lot better.


I’m happy to read your words, because that exactly the feeling I had after having read the engadget transcript from D conference… And it is said they spent 5 years to develop this…
Anyway I just wanted to say that video is choppy and that there is sound (audio port (in???/)out. There are 2 galleries interesting on engadget.


So it runs on Linux, leaving all the office users on Mac/PC out in the cold. Oh it has Documents to Go, like that could ever replace a full office install. It seems like it’s only a larger screen/keyboard for the Treo, hell they should have just released a cable for the Treo to an external monitor/keyboard.

5 hours of battery life, even with wifi, while impressive are still not enough. It needs to get through a full work day at full use. I’m sure batteries are just not there yet, but realistically that’s where it needs to be.

Basically you are pretty much just running your Treo on a larger screen/keyboard. I can’t believe how much they completely missed the boat on this one.

Comments are closed.