Palm’s new device is up – Palm Foleo

Oops, I hate when that happens. It seems Palm’s press release hit their RSS feed prematurely, and it got spotted before it was pulled. A user on the TreoCentral forums posted as copy, and CNet confirmed it before it was pulled.

And now the official page is up. It seems that the speculation was mostly correct, but off in some ways. The Foleo does run Linux, and it uses Opera for browsing, as expected. It also has a large screen – but that’s about all that was on target. The Foleo isn’t really a standalone device.

The Foleo is basically a companion to the Treo, or another smartphone. It has a 10-inch screen and a full-size keyboard, and it syncs wirelessly via BlueTooth with your smartphone. The Foleo weighs just two pounds, and it provides five hours of work from the battery. It looks like it works with both the Windows Mobile and Palm OS Treos, as the email application is compatible with both Outlook Mobile and VersaMail. I hope that it can be linked to other clients, as I vastly prefer ChatterEmail to VersaMail.

You can also view and edit Office documents using a version of DataViz’s Documents To Go. You can also access PDF documents. Foleo comes with a VGA adapter, so you can run PowerPoint presentations using an external screen or projector. JPEG, GIF, and PNG image formats are also supported.

I’m sure a lot of geeks who were hoping for the Holy Grail of uber-gadgets will complain that this is too little, but I can see the appeal. I use my Treo for a lot – work email, checking the web from the road, etc. When I travel I still pack a laptop though, because as nice as it is, the Treo gets kind of tedious to work on after a while. You don’t want to spend hours on email, or try to edit a large presentation, on the Treo. Not if you can help it. With the Foleo, I could see ditching the laptop entirely.

The Foleo isn’t strictly tethered to the Treo. It also has WiFi and it can be used to browse the web from public hotspots, etc. But you can also use the Treo as a data connection via BlueTooth when you’re out of WiFi coverage. So it is also something of a web tablet. Flash is supported, so you can browse most web sites. However, from the QA session, the processor isn’t powerful enough to really support web video. They’ll address that in a future product.

Another point Palm makes on the site is that as smartphones get smaller, working on them becomes harder. The Treo family has been stuck at about the same size since the 600. Sure, the 680, 750, and 755p are a bit slimmer, no antenna, etc. But you can’t shrink the screen and keyboard without impacting usability. I have to wonder if this is laying the ground work for a new generation of tiny Treos. Just big enough to be useful for casual use, but relying on the Foleo for heavy lifting. Just thinking aloud…

The web conference has just started, Jeff Hawkins is presenting the Foleo now. It really is Linux, complete with a command line if you want to get to it. It is open to 3rd party developers, so hopefully we’ll see more applications for it. All of the ports are grouped on one side – power in, USB, video out, SD, and a headphone jack. There is also an internal CF slot to expand the device memory if you need it.

Foleo works with more than just Treo. It should support any Windows Mobile smartphone. They’d also like to support RIM and Symbian and they’re working towards that, and if Apple is willing to open the iPhone, they’ll support that too. (I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one.)

They’re doing the Q&A. They are open to 3rd party email clients and they’re encouraging those vendors to support Foleo, which is good to hear.

It is not a touch screen, and the resolution is 1024×600, but when using the VGA-out you get the full 1024×768.

It is solid-state, Flash memory. Expansion via the SD slot, or the internal CF slot (which is under the battery). Full details of what cards will be supported will be posted on the site in the coming weeks.

Email, attachments, folders, and contacts are sync’d in the first release. It sounds like memos, to-do lists, photos, etc, are not sync’d in the first version, but that may be expanded on in a future release.

Ok, so, it is basically a small, light, solid-state Linux laptop. It has basic features by default, but from the presentation and Q&A, it sounds like it is really open for 3rd party developers to go crazy with it. I could easily see this becoming a little Linux laptop for the hacker crowd. I may pick one up when they go on sale this summer.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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