Palm Foleo: The Un-Laptop

Yesterday, Palm announced the $500 Foleo "email companion." Palm's marketing story seemed a bit confused, so let's try and make sense of it, from a messaging/collaboration perspective...

What is it?

Foleo is a thin, light, mini-laptop. It runs Palm and third-party software on a Linux kernel. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and flash storage, plus USB and VGA ports.

Claimed battery life is five hours of use. It turns on and off "instantly." The screen is 10" diagonal (25.5 cm), and it weighs 2.2 lbs. (1 kg).

Out of the box, you can sync your email to a Treo or other smartphone running PalmOS or Windows Mobile. You can also browse the Web (using Opera), view photographs, or work with Office documents (using Docs To Go). The Office support includes the ability to give PowerPoint presentations via a VGA projector. Each application runs full-screen or in the background.

Internet access comes from Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (via your phone).

What isn't it?

It's not a full-featured laptop. Although you can add third-party applications to it, it's not as rich as a Windows XP or Mac OS laptop out of the box.

But, of course, it's much smaller/lighter and has a longer battery life than any $500 laptop.

Analysis

It seems to us that there's a gap in the market for a small, lightweight machine to travel with that allows access to email, the Web, and offers the ability to give presentations. This seems ideal for people who'd prefer not to travel with a heavy laptop, or who can't afford an expensive lightweight laptop with a long battery life.

It has limitations, but some people will feel that it's worth sacrificing functionality for the combination of low weight, small size, long battery life, ease of use, and relatively low price. We'll be watching this one with interest.

In other words: Ultra-light / Inexpensive / Full-featured -- Choose any two.

Here's a video of Palm's Jeff Hawkins discussing and then demonstrating the device.

... Richi Jennings

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