Palm's Foleo Folds
Remember that new, ultralight, Linux-based "mobile companion" laptop that Palm was going to introduce about now? Never mind. Yesterday, the beleaguered handheld manufacturer pulled the plug on the product.
In a post on Palm's corporate blog, chief executive Ed Colligan said the Foleo wasn't working out as planned and would have been a distraction from Palm's core mission:
I have decided to cancel the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration and focus all of our energies on delivering our next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market.
For Palm fans, the "whew" moment in that announcement has to be the confirmation that the company does, in fact, have a next-generation operating system in the oven and will now devote all its resources to getting it out of the kitchen.
The "were they sniffing glue?" bit has to be the statement that the Foleo wasn't running on this new platform--that, instead, Palm had cooked up a separate system for this device. The last thing a company with Palm's record of software-development futility needed was a second OS project to distract its programmers! Didn't anybody at Palm raise their hand at some point and say "Shouldn't we first finish the software for the gadgets that people are, like, actually buying today?"
In any case, all this means that we still don't have too many mobile-computing choices between laptops and smartphones. Nokia's N800 now seems about the only viable option on the market--and may wind up having that space to itself for a while longer.
Consider another sub-laptop that I recently evaluated, Samsung's Q1 Ultra. A souped-up version of the "Ultra-Mobile PC" that I bashed last year, this $799-and-up tablet adds a few tweaks to the old design while retaining most of its fundamental faults.
The Q1 Ultra Samsung sent was a little lighter than the Q1, at 1 lb. 8.25 ozs., and ran a little longer on battery, at 2 hours 47 minutes of MP3 playback. It also included a physical keyboard of sorts--an array of dainty keys on either side of the screen. But entering text was hardly faster than it was with the Q1's onscreen keyboards, and the Q1 Ultra felt even slower than the already sluggish Q1--thanks in part to Windows Vista, which was grotesquely out of place on such an underpowered device. The Q1 Ultra's puny processor couldn't even play through a music library without stuttering.
I could only see the Q1 Ultra making itself useful as a simple Web-browsing and note-taking device--that is, what the Foleo could have been, but with better battery life, greater ease of use and a cheaper price tag.
In that sense, I'll miss the Foleo--not for its advertised role as a bigger-screen counterpart to a smartphone, but for its potential as a standalone sub-notebook. But if this project's demise is the price Palm must pay to ship a new smartphone system in this decade, it's an acceptable bargain.
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