There is a third business that I’ve been working on but I’m not going to tell you what it is. It’s in mobile computing. It’s something different and it’s in its early stage. We have three businesses at PalmOne. One you don’t even know about, which is just a child. Another is the teenager and the other one is the mature 45-year-old. … Not really. I’ll give you a couple of clues. I always think of mobile computing as personal computing. This long-term vision has led us through everything–first the organizers and now through the smart-phone space. It’s like everything a personal computer is. Continue down that path. What are the implications of a world where everyone has a super high-speed Internet connection in their pocket and many gigabytes of storage, superfast processors, audio, visual and multimedia? What are the consequences of that? How will that change computing when you have all that stuff available to you all the time? I try to think into the future.”
And here, nearly two years later, is the future to which Hawkins referred, the Palm Foleo (critics will inevitably dub it the “Fooleo”). Palm bills this as the mobile companion to its Treo smart phone, noting its 10-inch screen and full-size keyboard for reading and editing email and other documents received on a cellphone.
The Foleo also acts independently as a computer, with a Linux-based operating system for creating new applications. In partnership with DataViz and Opera Software, Palm hopes to show how easily new technology and applications can be added to the Foleo. It has Web search and browsing capabilities via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, along with editing capabilities for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus a PDF viewer. The device has an “instant-on” feature, meaning users push a button and the Foleo is ready, without a boot-up period. It weighs 2.5 pounds.
The mobile-phone companion will be available in the U.S. this summer. Palm expects the price to be $499, after an introductory $100 rebate.
- 10:35 a.m.: Some background on the Foleo from creator Jeff Hawkins: “If the smart phone is a truly capable computer and billions of people have them, some of them are going to need a larger display. Smart-phone screens are just too small. People need a mobile companion, a device that extends their smart phones.”
- If you are a heavy smart-phone user, Hawkins says, Foleo makes your life a lot easier. You charge it overnight and use it all day long (like a Newton!)
- No hard drive. Semiconductor based.
- 10:40 a.m.: No cramped keyboards here. Full-sized only. Hawkins says it’s the smallest computer ever made with a full-sized keyboard.
- 10:45 a.m.: True on/off. No boot-up time. No sleep. “Just like the Clapper,” says Walt.
- Side note: Hawkins is extraordinarily tall. He looks likes Manute Bol next to Walt and Kara.
- Future iteration of the device will allow email over Wi-Fi.
- 10:50 a.m.: Uh-oh. Technical problems. Hey, I know, let’s talk about the scroll wheel for a while!
- Hawkins: “Once you’ve used Foleo’s scroll wheel and you move to another laptop, your thumbs will be looking for it.”
- 10:55 a.m.: How does the device handle email attachments? Pretty well, apparently. Native formating retained. All native. Documents and spreadsheets can be created from scratch. Device can display PDFs and Powerpoint docs, but it cannot edit them.
- Linux OS allows new applications to be developed quickly.
- Applications run full-size all the time. Essentially, it’s a modal device. There’s no task bar, and you switch between applications via the keyboard.
- 11 a.m.: Device runs Opera browser. Doesn’t do video, though. Will it ever? Hawkins says it will someday, it just doesn’t do it well enough right now.
- Foleo doesn’t have a cellphone radio, so it’s not carrier dependent.
- Foleo will support Palm and Windows Mobile. Hawkins wants it to support RIM and iPhone as well, but hasn’t inked the deals necessary to do that yet.
But how similar is this to Vadem’s ill-fated Clio? Hopefully, it won’t end up mimicking the legendary undoing of this defunct device.