Friday, August 8, 2008

Jeff Hawkins Talks About the Foleo

Palm founder, Jeff Hawkins, spent some time talking about the Foleo with Patrick Seitz of Investor's Business Daily.

The Q&A with Hawkins was originally published as a sidebar to a larger article discussing the growing popularity of the "netbook", a small form factor notebook computer designed to ultra portable providing easy access to the web, email, and writing. Palm chose to cancel the Foleo in September of 2007 to focus on rewriting the aging Palm OS mobile operating systems that powers many of the company's most popular smartphones, including the consumer-oriented Centro.

The following is an excerpt from the Investor's Business Daily interview with Mr. Hawkins:
"IBD: Why didn't Palm have the confidence in Foleo to go forward?

Hawkins: I don't think that Palm didn't have confidence in it. Palm has its issues and challenges. At the time, they were in the process of closing this major financing, restructuring deal with Elevation Partners.

And as part of that deal, they brought in Jon Rubenstein, who's a great guy. He was at Apple (AAPL) and did all the iPod stuff. He came in basically to take over product stuff, because I really hadn't been running the product design center at Palm for several years. They came in with a particular strategy that they wanted to pursue at Palm, and that strategy didn't have room for Foleo.

It was clear Foleo had technical issues. It was a first-generation product. We'd have to launch it and then do another gen within a year. And that's a big commitment of people and dollars.

It was a strategic decision to pursue a different approach. I don't think they made a mistake. We haven't seen the outcome of that decision yet. It really was not acrimonious at all. It was just business.

I'm a little disappointed, only because I loved the product concept. I'd really like to own one. And I'm a believer in it. And I'd love to end my design career at Palm with a success there.

They may still come back to it. They haven't totally written it off.

IBD: So you didn't get to keep a Foleo?

Hawkins: Oh, I have one. Oh, yeah, I got to keep one. I have the beta release. The hardware is very reliable. It works great."
You can read the full Hawkins Q&A here.

As many of my long time readers know, I was one of the few people who did get to play with a pre-production Foleo. It really was a great idea. At the end of the day, I didn't care that it wasn't running a Linux varient or Microsoft's Windows XP. I wanted a light-weight device that looked great and offered long battery life with easy access to the web, email, and an office suite. (DataViz provided a Foleo specific version of their award-winning Documents To Go application.)

However, the Foleo, as originally designed, was not a stand along computer. It needed to be tethered to a Palm OS or Windows Mobile smartphone and, as discussed in the article, the Wind River Linux operating system and core applications were not ready to go live. I'm looking forward to 2009 when Pam OS II/Nova smartphones are shipping because if Palm does decided to do a new Foleo, the Nova opertaing system will likely be the foundation for such a device.

Read the full Investor's Business Daily interview...
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