back to article Palm reveals 'secret' smartphone buddy

Two years after hinting that Palm was designing a "new category of mobile device," co-founder Jeff Hawkins revealed the the big secret today at the All Things Digital conference. Announced as "Palm's first smartphone companion product," the Foleo is sort of a smartphone and sort of of a laptop — but doesn't really have the …

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Yeah, well...

Maybe it'll bomb. But I don't believe we've seen a 2.5 # Unix box and frankly, if it works, I'll buy it. I'm tired of trying to sync my Win CE device (2nd and last of 2, after being a Palm initiate back in "the old days").

Funny thing about predictions - they often don't come true. Modine hasn't anything to lose in his prognostication, but I am pretty certain Palm has done their homework.

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the return of the dumb terminal

in what way is this not a serial terminal for a (usually headless) machine?

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That's not a laptop, nor a phone: I'm afraid it'll flop

If I need a laptop, I would be able to get something very useable for US$500-600, so the Foleo falls short here.

And for that matter I am still very very happy with my Zaurus SL-C860, a true palmtop that complements perfectly my very plain cell phone (no camera, no frills, just a phone). It has a 3.5" screen that still is considered the best of all PDAs and cell phones, very readable, SD & CF slots (WiFi with a cf card)... and it got it from ebay, almost new, for US$280. Not bad, not bad at all!

Top that, Palm!

On the other side of things, too bad Sharp has the same management idiocy as Palm, and only offers the Zaurus in Japan... oh, well...

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Never seen a 2.5 lb Unix (Linux) box?

Look at the Nokia N800 - it runs Debian, ssh, xterm, vnc (client or server), Bluetooth, WiFi, kismet, AbiWord, various email clients, Opera.

Essentially it runs a fairly standard Linux distro and weighs 250g. Connect a Bluetooth keyboard and you have what the Fooleo should have been.

The Palm Fooleo will surely bomb - it's a product that might have been interesting in 2003 but now in 2007 it's an embarassment. Sure, the thin client/Smartphone concept will become more interesting and relevant in future, but I reckon Nokia are more on track with Sombrero than Palm are with this abomination

http://www.ringnokia.com/2007/05/put_on_a_sombre.html

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Ed

If it was a Microsoft product...

Presumably this is targeting the Blackberry demographic, aiming for companies to buy them for their staff... Is the fact it runs Linux, not Windows going to sink it? I love linux, but in my experience many companies are very wary of touching things that haven't been blessed by Microsoft.

I'm not sure the name is very good either - its not very easy to say.

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Wait a minute, this isn't new

This looks exactly- *exactly*- like a slightly updated version of the Psion netBook, which was itself derived from the Series 7, which was the spiritual descendant of the good old Psion MC.

In fact, this device has almost nothing new about it- except for Hawkins' optimism that it's a new class of device. The keyboard is no bigger (and in fact, is actually smaller) than the one that the Cambridge Z88 had, which was about the same size as the TRS-80 Model 100... do I need to go on? Heck, the Amstrad NotePad machine even had a full moving key keyboard.

This thing's just not news, and it annoys me that Hawkins thinks it is; but... I still miss the netBook. Lovely thing, it was...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Never seen a 2.5 lb Unix (Linux) box?

You mention a bluetooth keyboard. What about the screen? Don't you think a larger screen can be a nice thing to have for some users?

If you give me a "mobile companion" that is a combination of a bluetooth-enabled 10" screen and keyboard which I can attach to my smartphone and works seamlessly and costs less than $500, I will probably buy it, whatever its name is. Obviously the smartphone needs to be able to drive the larger screen, either directly or through some hardware in the "mobile companion". Isn't the Foleo more or less that?

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HTC Shift / Kaiser, anyone...

It sounds to me that Jeff Hawkins or whatever haven't heard of HTC Shift / Kaiser apparently...

And yea, I'm posting this on my Cingular 8525...

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Silver badge

There may well be a niche and I have seen a 2.5 lb linux box before

One care that I generally have about laptops is not so much size, as weight. Most low-cost laptops are easily heavier than 2.5 kg, i.e. more than twice the weight of this device. For this reason we used a Toshiba Libretto a lot as an ultra portable linux box (1.2 kg or approx 2.5 pounds: we even used it as web-server to host experimental web-services our sysadmins would not allow on the main web-server until thoroughly tested). The ultra-compacts using screens of around 10-13" are readily available now, but they tend to be rather expensive: my VAIO SZ-series 1.7 kg powerhouse cost over 2,500 Euros, but then I need 3-D rendering horsepower for demos. If you do not need this kind of horsepower, the Palm device might come in handy.

Of course, businesses might not worry about the cost of an ultra-compact laptop as much as private users.

I will stick with a separate PDA (Tungsten T3) for now, and might even move to a T/X. Smartphones are not as nicely compact as regular mobile phones, and do not have the screen real estate of a PDA

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Anonymous Coward

Return of the Series 7 ...

exactly what I was thinking Jasmine ...

How anyone could say ths was 'the most exciting product they have ever worked on' beggars belief.

Surely Jeff has been in some kind of coma and missed the last ten years.

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Too bulky for pocket, too lacking in features for suitcase

Though I must admit, I pretty much bought my Nokia N800 as a toy, :-) I've been pleasantly surprised at how well it does the things I need: web browsing; podcasts; simple mail; some puzzle games to pass the time at the airport; GPS navigation (with Bluetooth GPS); uploading files to my web server on the go...

I've considered getting a Bluetooth keyboard for it, but even a foldable one would make it all too bulky to chuck in my pocket, IMHO.

Considering the size of this Foleo thing, I can't quite see when it would make sense for me.

I wish Palm the best of luck with it. It's just not for me.

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Maybe a workable idea

I sort of like it.

I've been using smartphones for years, and my big beef has always been that you can't work on one all day - even the full qwerty keyboard editions are too small to use comfortably for longer than an hour or so. This means I still have to haul my laptop everywhere - even for short, one-day trips abroad.

If this is essentially a super-lightweight front-end for my smartphone (big screen, big keyboard) then I'm really pleased. The question is "what will it sync with?"

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PDA with decent keyboard?

I still have my money in my pocket waiting for a reasonable Unix large-ish PDA with a reasonable keyboard and screen at a reasonable price. Is this it? (How much is $500 in UK money, £600?)

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Rob

Disappointing

The name "Foleo" makes me think of an e-ink book / newspaper reader with some souped-up capabilities to make using it with a smartphone more tempting. Perhaps it can be a slimmed down version with bluetooth and/or wifi and rely on a smartphone for the cellular connection, much like the N800. Or maybe it has the ability to read documents and take annotation direct on the screen with a stylus. None of this is outside the realm of technology, and in fact can be picked up for about the same price (check out the iLiad)

I'd probably have been pretty pleased to see something like that, especially if it had a really neat twist like a rollable screen (there is an ebook reader that does this already) but this is just an annoyingly crippled laptop at the same price as a regular laptop. Why would I want this? Palm must have gone crazy.

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might be interesting when picked up cheap when they drop the line....

This just has to bomb. It's as heavy and large as an small portable so why would you possibly carry this, crippled, device instead?

The real problem is that it won't replace a laptop so it will be an incremental expense whether you're a home or business user and the cost of it is more than the difference between a basic laptop and something small and light.

I've got a Nokia tablet and, whilst it's quite cool, it suffers the same problem - it's still a crippled web experience so I end up reaching for the laptop instead. I've thought a few times that the Nokia would be quite cool with a 10" or 12" screen and a faster processor, oh, and a keyboard but then suddenly i realise i've designed a laptop or tablet pc.

When the Foleo is on eBay for £100 or so they'll be a useful device but until then i'll leave it.

I still can't believe Palm have lost it so badly. In the Vx they had the perfect form factor. The original Tungsten with it's slider got thicker but was IMO the last great device they made and a great companion to a phone. When that broke i tried a T3 but by then processor speed and screen had been improved at the expense of battery life and the sync software had been downgraded so i dumped it. I still miss having a PDA with me but can't find a device that's as good as an old palm

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Only if you can run Palm apps...

1. Jasmine Strong - wow, someone who really knows about Psion's history. I was hoping Palm would license the Psion 5 keyboard. Now a Psion 5 size Palm device would have been more novel

2. The Foleo could still work if it could run all the vast amount of Palm s/w- this would give a really good alternative to XP/Vista platforms

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Neither fish nor fowl...

I can see a small core market for it, but most people will be frustrated that they can't do more with it. Given that the laptop market is moving towards lighter, more power-efficient machines, and phones are moving towards having higher-res displays and more usable keyboards (except for Sony Ericsson), it's hard to see a long-term future...

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Anonymous Coward

This would make a bit more sense..

If it were paired with a regular candybar or flip phone.

Perhaps.

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Maybe Missing the Point

Hey Guys,

First post so go easy on me!

Maybe I'm missing the point of some of the posts here. Most laptops of this size and weight are £1000 minimum - e.g. Asus U1F 11.1" TFT Core Duo @ £1100. Going by the difference when buy a Treo 680 on Palm US ($399) and Palm UK (£299) then if the Folio goes on sale at $500 then it should sell for £370 here.

Now most of the things I do when travelling are - Pick up email, create office docs and browse the web which to be honest a £1100 laptop is hideously overspecced for. I can do these of my Treo but to be honest working at my Treo for 5 hours straight is not an option. Couple the low weight, with 5 hours battery life and the ability to install open source software this could be a real selling point for a lot of travellers especially if they include a good media player,USB HDD support and VOIP via WIFI.

The only thing I'm a bit disappointed with is that this is the "groundbreaking" device that Hawkins has been touting for god knows how long now. I was expecting a bit more.

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Missing the Point

Oh and forgot to mention that they need to include VPN and Thin Client via RDP and ICA in their base configuration.

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Anonymous Coward

Series 7 .. but lacking bits

I agree with you Jasmine - however this Palm offering seems to have lost functionality that the Series 7 had along the way - no mention of a touch screen, no mention of other synchronization software to other devices (but I assume it'll have a standard palmsync stack?) - only 5 hours battery life (my Psion 7 gave me a good 8 hours, my Psion 5 gave me 3-4 days!!), it's lost a PC card slot (but gained bluetooth, sd and wifi, which weren't around in the days of the 7).

On the whole I am seriously underwhelmed!

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Re: Return of the Series 7 ...

Totally agree with you here guys...

Btw, I really want Psion to return!!!! When will we see the next gen Psion Series 5?

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Why not a small laptop?

I think there is is a need, but there are already products from a number of suppliers. I recently bought a second hand IBM ThinkPad X40 on which I run Unbuntu linux. It has a 12.1" screen. wireless network, decent hard disk, full size keyboard, weighs about 2.5lb, etc. It is a PC and there are around half a dozen machines of similar specification form competitors.

What I do not understand is why a 12.1" laptop is more expensive that a 15.4" one. In nearly every other market segment, smaller is cheaper (cars, mp3 players, televisions, loudspeakers, etc). I guess it is lack of volume and that the (mainly business) market will pay.

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Tom

portable smartphone with large screen

i have a nokia n80 and can plug that into my dvd player screen in my car, along with a bluetooth keyboard it makes a perfectly good multimedia player/web/email/phone/satnav lol it does literally everything

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Specs ?

Memory, CPU, screen res, basic storage ? All mysteriously absent from announcements and reviews.

OTOH, I am a big Palm fan, and still using my Palm Pilot.

If this baby is running enough power to host a compiler so that I can port a few essentials over (WiFi hacking tools, proper browser, basic development environment) then I would be interested. But only if, and it's a fecking great big if, it actually costs me $500, eg about 250 quid. I can't buy a laptop for that sort of money, and it's a bargain for a nice lightweight linux hackers toy with a five hour battery life.

And I'm sure that the linux jihad will waste no time in porting all manner of stuff accross, especially if palm is cooperative, and the machine packs enough punch to run a couple of desktop apps. I'm still hapily running linux and Win98 on my old Thinkpad P90, so I know it doesn't need that much punch to be a useable enough machine for mobile use.

If we get the standard dollar price gouge, eg it costs me 500 quid, then I wouldn't touch it with a shitty stick, since I can buy decent enough laptop for that sort money that will be capable of hosting multiple OSes, incorporate a DVD burner, 3D graphics, etc etc.

Maybe a bit heavier, and bulkier, maybe not as good looking, but far more bang for your buck.

I suspect that the device will sell a few thousand units to the type of techy that will buy anything shiny, and another few thousand to linux freaks in the US and then die a death.

It will surely bomb in the UK and elsewhere, unless Palm shows the good sense to fix the price point. 500 quid is just to expensive for something with such limited functionality.

As a linux toy, interesting, as anything else, expensively pointless.

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S

Too heavy

@Chris Cartledge -

A 12.1" laptop is more expensive because of the increased engineering that needs to go into it to make sure everything fits and runs well, better cooling, and it's harder to manufacture things in a smaller space.

Regarding the Foleo - I think it's at a great price point - I recently wanted to buy an ultraportable for £400 (what's the point in buying a laptop if it's bulky? I have my desktop for my desk) and settled on an IBM X31 used for £450. If this was around, I definitely would have bought it.

Ideally this wouldn't be so locked down (although this remains to be seen) - making it possible to install things like Java and the rest on it - probably why laptops are preferable to PDAs if you wish to do more serious work (such as development).

However, it's weight is near to that of my fully functional IBM with a 12.1" display as opposed to it's 10.1" display - I don't see why it should be so heavy, especially as my IBM has a hard disk and all the other bits in it. Especially for something with cut down functionality.

I would also hope the screen is at a decent resolution, if it's just a scaled up PDA then it will look pretty garish and cheap.

I would buy one though for travelling - you really don't want something quite so heavy to travel with and PDA's irritate me for data entry (sending longer emails etc.).

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It's a Psion netBook!

Jasmine hit this on the head. This IS a netBook with the new fangled USB/Bluetooth stuff. Unfortunately they've forgotten that the full office suite on the netBook was a major part of it's really strong points e.g. Data/Sheet/Jotter - embeddable sheets in data/jotter etc. Still if I could link to my Nokia 9500 then it would help my tryping accuracy and rest my eyes. I've done the whole laptop thing including the ultra portables and I'm back on the netBook & Nokia 6310i combo - it just works esp with a GPRS card and WiFi for the netBook. Still, looks very interesting and I wonder if you could sneak a linux spredsheet on with a flat file database?

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OLPC for the prep school set

a $100 laptop that costs $1000. at least it ain't green, it's BMW grey.

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I have taken steps to pre-order 5000 dozen

At last! A genuine Dilbert device. Scott Adams, have you been moonlighting at Palm?

On a parallel subject, I heard about someone who refuses to return his dodgy Sony laptop battery because he is longing for it to explode.

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I also like it

I think it is pretty cute, and it does most of what I bought my (much more expensive) 11" laptop to do: connect to the Internet, connect to a projector to show presentations, do text processing. Since it runs Linux, it will also do a lot more, limited mainly by its lack of hard disk. And it fits in a slim briefcase.

If they could bring the price a bit down (to, say, $300) I think they have a very good case. Even at the current price, it may go well with corporate types where cost is less of an issue (I'm in academia, so I can't buy a new laptop every year and I certainly can't justify a smartphone).

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An ideal device for the road warrior and sysadmin

Palm have actually got it right. And they have mentionned there's no reason it won't sync with other smartphones with a bit of work. I bet you can use a candybar phone for GPRS/EDGE/UMTS access via bluetooth and it provides wifi onboard. The size is perfect for travel and the weight is too (even if it could be lower, but this is 1st gen). It'll do all the stuff your smartphone will do so you've got your office apps, and it's not windows so much less of a nightmare to administrate for corporate types. Throw out those 3+ Kg laptops that sales/execs use on the road and just get these. It'll save on back problems. And for sysadmins it's the perfect cheap and useable device for running around the office. VPN tools will appear very quickly is Palm play ball and open up the underlying linux OS as well as any other linux commandline tool you can think of. at 500 or even 600$ it's a steal compared to a Vaio TX or Asus 10". So long as the exchange rate doesn't cripple it in Europe it'll do well over here for all of us who spend 1+ hours in trains every day

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Anonymous Coward

Many of us will need a portable docking station for our smartphone

I can't help thinking of a (near) future when smartphones will be more powerful than most people will ever need, and yet their keyboards and screens will still be constrained by the overall form factor, as all of us will want the devices to be comfortably small.

The size of the keyboard and screen will soon become the main bottleneck of these devices, seriously limiting their uses. This is the main problem that Palm is addressing with the Foleo, I believe. It's already a pain point for many users, and it will become increasingly so as smartphone become more and more powerful. Why so many people don't get it?

The other point that many people don't get is that there is an increasing number of smartphone users that would stop carrying their laptop again if they could, and would use the smartphone for everything they do. Yet many of them can't do this today because the screen and keyboard are too small for regular use. The solution can't be "buy a laptop"! It needs to be, "add a comfortable user interface to your smartphone".

Perhaps the Foleo is not a device for the year 2007, but I am sure it is one for the year 2008 or 2009.

I am also sure Palm can wait.

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Anonymous Coward

waiting for bootup

So many comments have praised the power of laptops, but Palm has always emphasized instant access. The difference between a PDA and anything running Windows is minutes wasted waiting for usability. I hope the Foleo does not lose this simple and vital attribute. After twenty years of processor speed development, my XP desktop still takes several minutes to get useful. I'm confident that Hawkins knows this basic quality of the stuff he's designing. Try to think "carrying a magazine" rather than "rendering 3-D graphics", and you'll see the design intent.

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