nullstream weblog - Re-examining the Foleo

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Re-examining the Foleo

Mobile Tech

June 1, 2007 12:13 PM PST


I'm sure by now you have heard of Palm's 'revolutionary' new product the Foleo. It is supposed to be a 'smartphone companion'. The Web universally trashed it literally in real time as it was being announced. I also had a 'WTF?' moment and figured it wasn't even blog worthy. I admit it was a bit of let down since Jeff Hawkins said, "Foleo is the most exciting product I have ever worked on." I have a lot of respect for Hawkins, he is a really smart guy. Of course I have never had respect for Palm, and after this announcement that has not changed.

But now that I've had some time to mull the concept over, I admit I think the idea has merit - not the way it exists today, and certainly not the way they are positioning it. But someday in the not to distant future, I think this concept will take off. Heck I'd probably even buy one - someday. I'll explain my thoughts, but first, lets examine what we know.

I've marked the important things with a *.

-- *Instant on, instant off (flash based, no HD)

-- Rapid access to various applications

-- *10-inch screen and full-size keyboard

-- *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

-- *Lightweight at 2.5 pounds (don't know the dimensions, but it looks small)

-- Fast, simple and intuitive navigation

-- *5-hour battery life
-- Linux OS for easy application development

Now for how they are positioning it - as a smartphone companion. You turn it on, and sync it with your phone, edit files, emails, surf the web etc. On its own it's not a full laptop, and it's not a phone. So what is it? Well it's not a 'smartphone' companion (sorry Palm), first we don't really know what that is or why we want one, and second it's ultimate utility will really not have much to do with asmartphone at all (except maybe as an external modem). What it is, is the latest attempt at a web appliance . Remember those (iopener etc.) These were all the rage in 2000, but never took off. The concept was a device that would be cheap, quick to turn on, and only useful to surf the web and do email. They never took off then, because quite honestly they were ahead of their time. This time around, the 'new' web appliance is small, portable, flash based and wireless enabled. Oh and this time around we have this thing called Web 2.0 (hate the term, love the concept).

Hawkin's vision is for you to carry all your data around with you on your smart phone, and then access it with a 'companion'. He is off base however, as the future is headed in the following direction instead:

1. Ubiquitous network access. Where ever you are you can reach the web, wifi, wiMax, 3g.
2. All your data is on the net and can be accessed from anywhere.
3. Rich web applications can be used to access, and edit most of your data simply through a browser, with a near desktop experience -no local apps required. (Google docs etc).

So in that future, a portable web appliance that can do little but browse the web IS appropriate. It is smaller, lighter and cheaper than a laptop but you can still get at 'your'stuff. So they have the product right, but the use case and timing all wrong.

So while we are waiting for this online / everywhere web 2.x, all my data online, Internet future, what good is the Foleo? Oh I'm glad you asked; 'Thin Client'. I'm a huge, oh wait let me emphasize, HUGE remote desktop fan. Between VPN and Himatchi I can access my work and home desktops from anywhere I am as long as I have a network connection. In fact for years and years now my laptop use model at work has simply been to remote to my work desktop from meetings, and while loitering at hot spots. I don't need a full laptop for that. Also my 'work from home' model has been 100% remote desktop since XP was released. With Himatchi, Vpn and the Linux rdesktop client this device might actually be good for something. Oh, and it needs to be much less than $500.00, which I predict it will be, in 1 year, for a limited time, while it is being discontinued.

Comments (7)
J, August 8, 2007 10:58 PM:

I still owe a better response than this, but the Foleo is using Windriver Linux. Worth it.

Paul, August 8, 2007 11:42 PM:

What's the API for disabling all the interrupts so you can implement locking?

John, August 8, 2007 11:46 PM:

There's an inside joke that only 5 people on the planet will understand.

J, August 9, 2007 10:54 AM:

LOL - intLock() - that's great!

John, September 4, 2007 04:05 PM:

The Foleo is officially DOA. Wow that didn't take long.

J, September 4, 2007 06:42 PM:

Wow! It came and went before I had an opportunity to comment!

George, September 4, 2007 06:59 PM:

Damn, I was looking forward to picking one up on Woot.

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