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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?"

(The Foleo cancellation certainly won't raise Palm's popularity among the third-party developers that had signed up to write software for the Foleo.)

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.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 5, 2007; 9:43 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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RW: "a distraction from Palm's core mission."

Does Palm still HAVE a core mission?

Posted by: Tom T. | September 5, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

you haven't tried the oqo 02 yet have you? Very addictive portable computing...

Posted by: umpc guy | September 5, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"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."

Yes, because we all need Palm to come out with a new smartphone in this decade! The future of the world depends on it!

Posted by: cc | September 5, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The Samsung Q1 Ultra is the antithesis of what the Foleo was supposed to be. Encumbered with Vista and limited memory, the Q1 boots and performs sluggishly and takes minutes to shut down and restore. The keyboard is useless for typing anything but passwords and URLs, or maybe correcting a typing mistake.

While everyone's dancing around the maypole celebrating Foleo's demise, please remember it's just another broken promise from Palm and a directorship that doesn't have the fortitude to follow its instincts.

Posted by: Matt Chroust | September 5, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The Asus Eee PC 701 is going to be an awesome ultra-cheap, ultra-portable notebook. It looks to be everything the Foleo should have been:

Posted by: Rob | September 5, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Likewise to the comment above - I've got an ASUS eee on order. The most maxed-out version there is, with 512mb of ram and 4gig solid-state, is still right at $400 and under a kilo in weight (not to mention half the size of any notebooks even twice that price). No moving parts, a full-size keyboard, and all the storage you'd ever need is just a USB hard drive away. Let's hope it doesn't similarly get dumped by the manufacturer.

Posted by: Adam | September 5, 2007 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Will Palm EVER get back to making just a plain old PDA for those of us who just want calendar and contact information in a shirt-pocketable size? My Tungsten-T still (fortunately) keeps on ticking, and my wife bought a LifeDrive (I tried to talk her into getting the T|X instead) about ten minutes before Palm quit making them. I know they still make the Three Mouseketeers, but I keep hoping for a PDA with a newer OS than 5.x.

Posted by: Stratocaster | September 9, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

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