On 30 May 2007, Palm announced the Palm Foleo, a smartphone companion product. Foleo provides a 10.2-inch, 1,024 x 600 display and full-size keyboard, enabling users to more easily work on e-mail and documents residing on a smartphone. Changes made on Foleo automatically are reflected on the connected smartphone, and vice versa. The two devices remain synchronized as long as they are within Bluetooth range of one another. Other features of the Foleo include:
The Foleo works with Palm’s Treo smartphones (Palm OS and Windows Mobile versions). Palm claims that "most smartphones based on Windows Mobile should work with little or no modification," and that smartphones based on OSs from Research In Motion, Apple and Symbian "likely can be supported with a modest software effort." The Foleo’s synchronization architecture is open. The Foleo does not include a hard drive, but instead offers 128MB of ROM and 256MB of flash memory. Palm has not disclosed the processor used.
Foleo will be priced at $499 after an introductory $100 rebate, and will be available in the U.S. late in 2Q07.
In an era in which increasing functionality is converging into ever-smaller devices, Palm has decided to buck the trend. The Foleo is too large for many smartphone users to consider carrying around as a limited-function accessory that requires a separate carrying case. Gartner believes that this unwieldiness will severely limit Foleo adoption by smartphone users, who place a premium on "pocketability" and attractive design.
Palm said that the Foleo is not intended to serve as a notebook replacement; rather, the Foleo is being marketed as a companion product which enables a smartphone to function more like a PC. Palm believes that smartphone users will prefer to carry a lightweight, "instant-on" device for e-mail, office document viewing/creation and Web access when they don’t need the full functionality of a laptop. Regardless, the Foleo will compete with notebooks because of its size. Most smartphone users already own a notebook PC and are very unlikely to carry all three devices. The limited functionality offered by the Foleo pales in comparison with far more capable, heavier and not much more expensive notebooks.
We believe there is a small but growing segment of the market that would welcome a low-cost device with a full keyboard and good display that is capable of roughly 75% of what most notebook computers are used for. But the Foleo's functionality falls short of this. We believe the Foleo could be more successful if it were modified and re-positioned to serve as a low-end Linux notebook PC, able to replace Windows or Apple notebooks in some usage scenarios. The Linux community might rally behind a more capable device with a faster processor, more memory and a larger battery. Few software developers are likely to write for this device until there is a sizable installed base, but the installed base is unlikely to become sizable unless the Foleo provides more functionality out of the box (such as a personal information manager suite, VoIP, instant messaging and cellular communications via a Bluetooth headset).
The Foleo is likely to be available only online and through Palm's 29 stores, which will likely hinder sales.
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