Palm Foleo turns smartphone into genius

Palm_foleo

According to Palm, anyway.

When Jeff Hawkins announced the Palm Foleo this week, it was almost exactly as the leaked press release promised it would be. "Almost" because I know I didn’t expect the "large screen" to turn out to be a whopping 10 inches or the old patents to serve as the foundation for what ended up looking like a standard subnotebook. And even though looks are so often considered to be deceiving, the Foleo’s non-subnotebook functionality has still left much of the tech community and most analysts feeling rather underwhelmed. Put crudely, the upcoming 2.5-pound device is basically just a big screen and keyboard designed to wirelessly connect to a Palm OS or Windows Mobile smartphone (staying synchronized via Bluetooth) to "view attachments, type longer emails, and get a bigger look at web pages and photos" normally viewed on a small screen.

Dubbing the Foleo a mobile companion and "the best idea [he’s] ever had," Hawkins suggests that even though the 10.55" x 6.67" x 0.94" clamshell is the size of a subnotebook and is equipped with wi-fi for independent use of the preloaded Opera Web browser, it "isn’t intended to replace a laptop."

Of course, depending on the amount and kind of third-party applications developed for the Linux-based operating system, all of that could change.

Palm_foleo2

The Foleo does have the potential to "change the future of personal computing," but not at the $599 price point ($499 after limited-time rebate), especially when prices of smaller, fuller-featured UMPCs are dropping; the entry-level Samsung Q1 Ultra, for example, was only $723 over the Memorial Day weekend.

At a more consumer-oriented price ($300 maybe?), I think the Foleo would appeal very much to MobileRead‘s "low-tech businessman and the common guy on the street." Consider these usage scenarios Brodie Keast, Palm’s senior VP of marketing, laid out to PCMag:

  • At home or out of the office, roaming away from desktop PCs to check email, surf the Web, and edit attachments
  • On short business trips for smartphone afficionados who try to manage everything on their phones

At the current introductory price, there’s more of an inclination to get hung up on how ludicrous a 2.5-pound "accessory" for a 5.5-ounce Treo is or how Palm thinks anyone wants to carry around an additional device (especially in light of its "carry less and do more" header).

Palm_foleo3

Knock off a few hundred dollars, though, and all of the Foleo’s primary capabilities and attributes don’t look too bad:

  • One-button access to full-screen email
  • Instant on, instant off
  • Rapid access to various applications
  • Web search and browsing via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
  • Editors for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus a PDF viewer
  • Compact, stylish design that fits on an airline tray table
  • Fast, simple and intuitive navigation
  • 5-hour battery life
  • USB port, video-out port, headphone jack, SD and Compact Flash slots

I don’t plan to follow the Foleo any further (although I’ve strayed before, devices with screens larger than 7 inches are generally beyond the scope of my interests), but I’ll keep an eye on Foleo Fanatics just in case of any future miniaturization.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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