On June 30, Palm announced the Foleo. In my mind it’s an ambitious endeavor.
For the third time, Palm is trying to re-invent a product category. First was the personal organizer (PDA), then was the smartphone and now the laptop. Palm wasn’t the first to design a product in each of these categoriesbut they arguably made each of these devices useful to the masses. With PDAs and smartphones someone had made previous versions but it was Palm that “perfected” them and others that copied. Now they are taking on an established hardware device, the laptop. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
Palm is pitching this as a “smartphone on the big screen” for those times when seeing the web, email and documents is a pain on a small screen.
I believe Palm is trying to get at a significant issue: mobile professionals could use a device somewhere between a smartphone and laptop. I agree completely. I’m just not convinced Palm has made the right device to do that effectively, at least based on the way it is being pitched.
A little perspective on my own mobile usage: I used a Palm handheld and a standard cell phone for years. I had a hard time finding an all-in-one device that had the right combination of ease of use, battery life and device size. I also have carried a laptop where I use email, web browser, word processor and spreadsheet about 80% of the time.
This mix changed in January when I adopted the Blackberry Pearl. Now I find myself leaving the laptop in the office in the evenings and when I go to meetings, carrying the Pearl instead since I get email and web browsing on it. If I need to access a document, I log in to my laptop from home or use my home computer.
Given my mobility needs, I’d think I was a likely buyer of the Foleo but it doesn’t appeal to me. Why? Because its a small laptop that works in conjunction with my smartphone. First, I don’t see the inherent benefit of connecting to a smartphone. Second, if I am going to get a small laptop I might as well get one with Windows.
See, I am not convinced that the object in my bag that needs replacing is my laptop. Instead, I am convinced the object in my bag that needs replacing is my notebook. And to this point I have yet to find anything that will do it well.