Palm was generous enough to spend a good twenty minutes with me at the Digital Experience show. For a three-hour show with several hundred attendees, that’s quite a bit of time and for that I thank them. There were Foleos-a-plenty at the booth and I took a good long look at a Foleo mobile companion: checking the weight, size, keyboard, scroll wheel, responsiveness and more. While doing that, I also chatted about the challenges that Palm is facing here with the explanation that I’ve seen this before: with the UMPC.
I started the conversation with a semi-tough stance, indicating that Palm has generally taken a beating over this new product; there was no argument there. I then asked for a candid answer to explain why I would want a $500 (after rebate) device when I already likely have a smartphone and a notebook or UMPC in my case. In fact, we did a little back and forth comparison between the Foleo and my Samsung Q1P in terms of capabilities, cost, usability, target customer, etc…
Here’s what I took away from the very up-front discussion:
- I’m not the target customer because I want to do more than extend my smartphone.
- The target customer is "the mobile professional". Folks in sales, IT and other enterprise areas that are on the go and occasionally need more than a smartphone to see the latest sales figures in Excel or need to hammer out an e-mail that would take too much time on a small QWERTY keypad.
- The core competencies of the machine are to tackle the three items that mobile professionals need the most: e-mail, Internet capabilities and document management. It’s not meant to be a be full and complex computing experience.
- I suggested then that the target audience is "not consumers, but enterprise". The response was "we’re targeting the Foleo to the mobile professional".
- When comparing the Foleo to my Q1P, we found that battery life was comparable if and only if I had my extended battery, which I did. Look for five hours of real-world usage.
- The device was lighter and thinner than I expected; it has small wavy indentations or ridges on the top making it feel less like a device and more like a portfolio…or is that port-Foleo. ;)
- The keyboard was quite comfortable and I like the scroll wheel in between the two click buttons; these function as left- and right-click mouse buttons.
- Instant on truly is instant. I brought my UMPC out of Sleep mode and it’s not "instant"; still quick at just a second or two, but instant is nice.
- I explained my opinion that the success of the device was partially dependent on third-party development, to which I got slight concession nod. However, I was told that the Foleo isn’t being put on the market to wait and see if it "sticks". To some degree, I feel that’s what Nokia did with 770 Internet Tablet, which "stuck" but in the form of the N800 IMO.
- We both agreed the biggest challenge for the Foleo is to get people to understand what the device is intended for, similar to UMPCs. Sure I use my Q1P as a true laptop replacement, but I’m the exception. Expecting it to be that is too high an expectation for some; the same goes for the Foleo. If you can accept the device for what it’s intended to be and hold it to those standards, it’s quite capable for that feature set and use case.
Here’s a few more pics of the device and its apps:
Navigation is via the pointing stick, scroll wheel, mouse buttons and arrow keys.