After a few hours of reading more about the new Foleo and watching Palm’s video conference on it, here are a few more of my thoughts.
– The Foleo can be used as a standalone device (i.e. without a smartphone). It has built-in WiFi, a USB port, a VGA port, an audio-out jack, and slots for SD and compact flash cards. (There is no hard drive.) I think Palm is purposely under-selling the Foleo’s potential as a low-end laptop, but in fact, that seems to be what it is.
– The price is right. I was expecting more of a UMPC-type device, and at $1,500-2,000, these devices are way too expensive for what they are. However, at $500, the Foleo seems affordable. And you can bet the price will drop over time.
– A drawback of the Foleo is that it is one more device to carry around. How this works for you will probably depend on your personal preferences and how you use different devices now. Personally, for “real work,” a big screen is important to me, as is access to desktop applications. Currently, I use my phone as a wireless modem for my laptop. I have a very small notebook that I love. (For entertainment like music, reading, etc., I prefer mobile devices.) My laptop is 2.8 pounds and has a DVD player, a 40 GB hard drive, and a 1.6 GHz processor. It’s a “real computer” that can boot Windows or Linux, and it’s not a lot bigger than the Foleo. I do like the form factor of the Foleo, though I wish it had a tablet-style flip screen. I think for people who have been able to wean themselves from a laptop and are able to use their smartphone as their mobile computer, the Foleo is a great product. For people like me who still find a laptop indispensable, it’s probably not as relevant. (Maybe I’ll evolve though….:)
– I really like that Palm says they’ll support a variety of devices, including the iPhone. The whole idea of using Linux (although Palm has their own version, which could be a concern) should be to open the device up to developers. As they’ve done in the past, Palm is opening their device and encouraging lots of development. Apple has chosen not to make their devices accessible, and I think that’s a mistake.
– There is apparently no support for old Palm OS apps. (In fact, Palm is reaching out to developers to develop PIM apps.) While this is a little unfortunate, it probably makes sense.
– Is this device relevant to education? It’s hard to say. I’d guess not too much in its first release, but very possibly down the road. If the price comes down to under $300, the processor gets more robust, and some solid educational applications are developed — all of which seems likely — this could be a decent educational laptop. With all the new Web 2.0 apps (and the addition of offline syncing), this could be very powerful. In fact, it could be a step closer to the super-user-friendly, book-type form factor computing device we’ve dreamed of for schools. Of course, we’ll watch what happens with OLPC and the Classmate as well.
All in all, I think this is a good move for Palm.