Better Than New


Palm’s Folly, er…Foleo by morepete
May 30, 2007, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Failure to Innovate, Snark

By Pete Mortensen 

If we had any lingering doubts about Palm’s inability to compete with Nokia, Motorola and Apple, look no further than the Foleo, the big-deal product launch the former PDA market-leader unveiled at today’s D — All Things Digital conference.

No, go ahead. Look at it in the picture above. Can’t pick it out? It’s the generic-looking laptop next to the Treo. Yes, Jeff Hawkins, the company founder who once discovered the market opportunity for digital organizers in the early 1990s, has discovered the market opportunity for the laptop computer — only 16 years after the first PowerBooks hit the market. And it’s almost as capable as those machines were themselves!

You see, the Foleo isn’t a full computer — it’s crippled hardware that relies on owning a Palm Treo to connect to the Internet. Hawkins apparently took far too literally people saying they wanted a larger keyboard and a bigger display for their Treos and concluded that he could make an accessory that did just that. And the Ta-Da! turns into a Ta-Dull, as a co-worker of mine says.

This product is dead out of the water. It is decidedly uncapable, and it can only reach the market of Treo owners who don’t already own laptops. No one wants another laptop-sized device to put in their bag. They might want a replacement for their current laptop, but they don’t want to do it by giving up so much storage or capability.

I’m almost foaming. It’s a sad, deeply wrong-headed idea that Hawkins claims took five years to come to market. In that same five years, Apple built its iPod empire and moved on to phones, RIM emerged as a serious contender, and Windows Mobile caught and passed the Palm OS. It’s just sad.

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This is a difficult post to write. I work with my team over hundreds of hours in the course of a project analyzing interviews, peoples habits, needs, desires, to avoid just such a product from seeing the light of day. Not because I have some deep seated love for Palm, but because the Foleo is such a wrong-headed left turn of a product by a brilliant guy, it has me reeling. I cannot overstate people’s reaction to it. When I showed people the images and semi-Functionality of the product the first response is silence like they have been whacked with a 2 x 4. The second response is a series incoherent gurgles like “but..”, “um..” Whaaa?”. It’s true, it seems the concept it so bad, simply gazing at a picture of it rips the fabric of space-time that it immediately sucks in all capability for reasoned thought in the surrounding vicinity. It’s the digital equivalent of Medusa’s head, able to turn any career into immovable stone.

Comment by Mark

You didn’t even bother to read the specs? The Foleo has WiFi, therefore it does not rely “on owning a Palm Treo to connect to the Internet”, though it will happily, and readily, use one if you want it to.

You are very wrong about this product. I think it’s a great idea. It’s just like the first Palm organizers: simple, effective, very usable. The Foleo has Wifi, Bluetooth, USB port, SD and CF card slots, Full size keyboard and a new pointing device, large screen, long battery life, INSTANT ON, Linux OS, auto syncs with smartphones (not just Treos). I can easily envision future models with smaller (7″) screens, folding keyboards, built-in webcams, tablet-like swiveling screens etc.

You can read your emails, surf the web, edit word and excel documents, read pdf docs on it (pretty much what most people do while commuting). I’m sure, third party developers like myself, will soon come up with many more solutions, including IM chat clients, media players, text editors, ebook readers, PIM apps etc.

You get all this for less than $500, and you laugh at it? Who needs a $1000+ laptop that fries your lap, takes ages to turn on, runs out of juice in less than 2 hours, and weighs almost 10 lbs? Not me!

I think you’re so blind-sighted with his Jobsness’ eye candies and mind games that you can’t see how elegantly simple and useful this product really is.

Comment by Adam




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