A first hand account of why RIM’s tablet could be end up being RIM’s Foleo

[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Mr. Geddes, Editor, GadgetsOnTheGo.net.]

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that RIM could be announcing their answer to the iPad at a developer’s conference next week. The code named “BlackPad” will not run RIM’s just released BlackBerry OS 6, instead it will run an OS that was created by a company that RIM recently purchased. The tablet is expected to ship in Q4 of this year, feature a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, broadband connections, AND will need a BlackBerry to access cellular networks.

The last feature, or lack thereof, is reminiscent of Palm’s Foleo, and that’s not a good thing.

It’s been 3 years since I and 74 other people tested the Foleo for Palm. The picture above is the Foleo on my kitchen table (complete with the box Palm was going to ship the Foleo in). The Foleo had a lot of potential (it was the original netbook). It was instant on (no bootup), it was slim, light, good battery life, had a comfortable keyboard that you could easily type on, had both Bluetooth and WiFi on board, ran a Linux OS, Opera web browser, Documents To Go, and the nail in the coffin of what would kill the Foleo.

You needed a Palm Treo in order to use the email application on the Foleo (I was able to get a few non-Palm Windows Mobile smartphones to work with the Foleo, but it wasn’t going to be supported out of the box). The email application on the Foleo synced with the email app on your Treo. It wasn’t a “real” mail app. No Treo, no mail. You could easily use the built in Opera web browser connected via WiFi to get to web mail (.Mac in my case), but why negate potential Foleo buyers because of its dependence on Palm’s golden child, the Treo? I was very vocal with Palm about this issue, it made no sense. The Foleo was very capable and did not need to rely on a Treo for one of–if not the most– important functions people use on mobile devices, email. It was created to work that way to insure that for every Foleo sold a Treo had to be part of the equation. In my opinion, as well as those of other testers, this wouldn’t fly with consumers.

At that time Palm had many Treo users, just like RIM does now with BlackBerry smartphones. I said it to Palm then and have the same feeling about RIM’s tablet, it shouldn’t be dependent on a BlackBerry to function (if it turns out RIM is really going to go down that road). I give Palm a lot of credit that they listened to us testers and ultimately decided it was better to shelve the Foleo than release it half-baked. Hopefully RIM will realize that crippling a device in order to keep BlackBerry smartphones in the equation just doesn’t add up. Ask Palm…

Alan’s Comments

I have also used a Palm Foleo, and agree with Mr. Geddes’ views and opinions about RIM’s upcoming BlackBerry tablet.  Even if RIM doesn’t require users to own a BlackBerry for email and Internet access from the “BlackPad”, RIM will also have another potential risk that Palm also had: Having to support multiple operating systems; BlackBerry OS and the BlackPad OS.

Since the two operating systems won’t be compatible with each other, RIM will have the added expenses needed to keep separate OS development teams in house to upgrade and maintain the software.  Likewise, third-party application developers will have to do the same and support two operating systems.  And lastly, customers will have to purchase separate versions of potentially the same applications.  (eg: Documents To Go for BlackBerry and Documents To Go for “BlackPad.”)


[Editor’s Note: Documents To Go and most of DataViz’s assets has recently been acquired by RIM.]

The similarities between Palm’s Foleo and RIM’s “BlackPad” are striking.  Let’s hope RIM doesn’t make the same mistakes that Palm did when developing the Foleo.

[Via GadgetsOnTheGo.net…]

Remembering the Palm TX, T5, and LifeDrive

I just moved my Palm TX, T5, and LifeDrive into storage.  They had been local residents on my desk since I acquired them and I have enjoyed playing and working with them for many years.  Today was the day they they moved into my storage crate with all of my other decommissioned smartphones and PDAs.

My Palm Pre, Apple iPhone 2G, BlackBerry Storm2, HTC Droid Eris, and Palm Foleo just got more room to spread out.

If you want to take a walk down memory lane, check out the PDA Museum where you can find write ups on many of the Palm/pa1mOne and Sony Clie Palm OS devices.

Rumor: HP webOS Tablet Later This Year

Over the last week reports have been popping up around the web that HP could have a webOS tablet ready to go sometime in the back half of 2010.

Reported by webOSRoundup.com, HP could be ready to bring out a tablet computer running webOS as early as Q3, 2010 or as late as the 2010 holiday shopping season. Adding fuel to this rumor is another rumor that HP has killed a project to release a tablet computer later this year running Microsoft’s Windows 7.

My personal opinion is that a commercial release of an HP tablet running webOS before November is an incredibly aggressive timeline. Even if HP’s hardware is ready to go, there is still the issue of actually acquiring Palm and the license(s) for webOS. Then there is the time required to recode the webOS Linux kernel to run on the new tablet, beta testing, manufacturing, software imaging, shipping, etc. Needless to say, there is a lot of work to be done. If HP wants it done, they can pull it off, but at what cost? The last thing that HP would want is to race to market with a new webOS tablet and to have it be a train wreck. That already happened with Palm’s Foleo. I would much rather see a product that can deliver on the promise of the Foleo that is done well and not rushed out against some imaginary schedule.

[Via webOSRoundup.com…]

Is the Time Right for a Palm webOS Foleo?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Palm’s discontinued Foleo mobile companion lately. It was two years ago, this past September, that Palm chose to discontinue the Foleo so that the company could focus their energy on the development of the Palm Pre and their new mobile operating system, Palm webOS. Looking forward, one has to wonder whether or not Palm will go back and redesign the Foleo for use with Palm webOS.

The Foleo was conceived by Jeff Hawkins, the father of the Palm Pilot. The Foleo was to be a “mobile companion” for Palm’s Treo line of smartphones; specifically the Windows Mobile Treo 750 and the Palm OS Treo 755p. Palm had signaled that the Foleo could be opened up to support other smartphones, including the BlackBerry, at some later date after it’s initial release. Unlike the Treo smartphones it was designed to work with, the Foleo was to run a completely new OS, simply called Foleo OS; meaning that Palm and their third-party developers would have to support three discrete mobile operating systems (Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Foleo OS). As you might have guessed, for such a small company, developing and maintaining three operating systems is not a position you would want to be in.

With the Foleo practically ancient history in the mobile computing field, why bring it up now? The answer is because Palm has made some changes to their mobile operating system line up. Palm has stated that they will no longer be releasing devices running Palm OS or Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. That leaves Palm with only their latest software platform, Palm webOS, to be used with new products. Since Palm webOS is based on a Linux kernel, and uses web technologies for displaying the user interface, Palm’s new platform could be used to drive a number of devices; not just smartphones.

From the beginning, I always thought that the Foleo’s hardware was solid and well though out. I had a chance to play with the Foleo during one of Palm’s sneak peek events. The hardware felt sturdy and up to to the challenges of day-to-day bumps and knocks. The Foleo had a bright 10-inch screen and a full size keyboard that I was able to touch type on. It also featured flash memory storage and a SDHC card slot for memory expansion. USB, video, and audio out ports rounded out the hardware. Comparing it to an Acer Eee PC or a Dell Mini 9, the Foleo’s hardware just felt better. (To be fair, the Foleo was to be almost twice as expensive than the Eee PC. Cost drives the quality of build materials. Cost vs. function is one of the main reasons why Apple choses to not release a Mac OS X netbook.)

So that brings us back to software. In 2007, Foleo OS didn’t make sense for a small company trying to contain their software development and support costs. In 2009, Palm has decided to focus their efforts around Palm webOS. A Palm netbook, powered by webOS, which has the ability to synchronize data and applications with Palm’s other webOS devices, the Pre and Pixi smartphones, could be a much more powerful device than the original Foleo.

In conclusion, a new Palm Foleo would have several advantages to it. First is that it would run the same mobile operating system as Palm’s smartphones. This would benefit both Palm and third-party developers since there would only be the one OS to write applications for. Secondly, in my opinion, the original Foleo hardware was well designed, and with some tweaks to the processor, memory, and video systems, would be up to the tasks expected of any of today’s netbooks. Lastly, the new management team at Palm is much better at product execution than the management team that was leading the company in 2007.

How about it Foleo Fanatics? With all the changes that have taken place at Palm since the fall of 2007, does it make sense for Palm to take another look at the Foleo? Leave your comments below.

More On a Possible “Foleo II” Device

While looking for more information on the rumor from this past weekend that Palm might be mulling over their options on releasing a redesigned Foleo running Palm webOS, I found this interesting article over on JKOnTheRun.com. Mr. Kendrick writes:

“Lots of companies are currently working on Google Android netbooks and there have been whispers of how great a WebOS-based netbook could be, even though not a single device with that OS is actually shipping yet. This obsession with netbooks and how to make a great one has me thinking that there’s no reason Palm couldn’t produce one, and right now.

Just hear me out. A netbook that is designed from the ground up to be a cloud machine could be easily produced using high-end PDA components. The main requirements would be a decent processor, very long battery life and an easy-to-use OS. Enter Palm.”

I think that this is a really cool idea. I’ve been using a Dell Mini 9 since late November (2008) and I have mixed feeling about it. Yes, it is light and super portable. I liked the Foleo’s exterior finishing better than the glossy lid on Dell’s netbooks. I also like the fact that I can run Windows XP on the Dell netbook, but with only about 2.5 hours of battery life, I’m not going too far without my AC adapter. (I often can’t go to a full morning’s or afternoon’s worth of meetings without having to break out the charger. Ugh!) There are only a handful of applications that I use my Dell Mini 9 for: note taking and word processing in Microsoft Word 2003; checking my email in Microsoft Outlook 2003 (I do have access to corporate email via a web mail portal but I prefer Outlook or my BlackBerry); calendaring; and web surfing with FireFox or Internet Explorer.

Now, here comes Palm with a “Foleo re-mix” taking the best concepts of the Foleo and combining it with the flexibility of Palm’s new webOS platform, and you can have an ultra-portable device that can easily provide the kinds of features I’m looking for (word processing, email, calendaring, and web browsing) in a device that can run at least 8 hours with the screen set to a reasonable brightness level with Wi-Fi enabled. That would be a perfect device for me.

You can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on this rumor as we continue to move through th rest of the year.

You can read the full JKOnTheRun.com article here

[Photo credit: JKOnTheRun.com]

Rumor: The Foleo to Become a webOS Netbook

Calling all Foleo Fanatics! I just read an interesting post over on Palm InfoCenter that was posted by Ryan.

“Rumor: Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, asserts in a note to clients today (via Tech Trader Daily) that Palm intends to produce a $399 netbook that will run WebOS. The speculation is not without precedent as Palm has stated on numerous occasions that the WebOS will power a family of products and has said in the past that a Foleo followup is not out of the question.

Chowdhry is saying that the device will basically be a revised version of the Foleo and will be powered by an ARM chipset and will use a Gobi 3G wireless chip from Qualcomm for an estimated 8-10 hour battery life. He says the project is being designed by three ex-Apple iPod guys.”

Shortly after the Foleo was canceled, company officials indicated that the Foleo might return one day in the future. Here is to hoping that day has gotten a little closer.

[Via PalmInfocenter.com…]

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

Stung by the Still “Missing” Foleo

It has been about 9 months since Palm canceled the Foleo Mobile Companion, and yet there are still traces of it to be found online.

I was over on the TealPoint website looking for more information about their TealSafe application and then I found this page, which reminded me that the Foleo is still MIA. If you scroll down, you can still see a list of the software that Teal was working on for the Foleo; 9 titles in all.

I really can’t wait until Palm gets the Foleo II out the door loaded up with Palm OS II.

Happy Anniversary Foleo Fanatics!

This week, Foleo Fanatics turns 1! It has been an interesting year, to be sure. Since we started up the site, we have watched Palm launch the Treo 755p, the Treo 750, the Treo 500, and the wildly popular consumer oriented Centro smartphone!

We also watched as Palm launched their MyPalm.com portal as a beta program to provide Palm smartphone customers with free, 24/7 technical support, software alerts and updates, how-to videos. Palm also introduced us to their new self-paced learning site which has been designed to help smartphone owners new and old learn more about their devices.

However, it hasn’t been all good times. In September 2007, we stood by as Palm canceled the Foleo Mobile Companion, and we found out that it would be another year before Palm’s Linux-based operating system, Palm OS II/Nova would appear on new hardware.

Even with the cancellation of the Foleo, there are things to look forward to. Palm has partnered with private equity firm Elevation Partners to help revitalize the company and help them to deliver on crisp product execution. The Centro was the first device that has come to market after this partnership. The much rumored Treo 800w and Treo 850 will be the second and third. And speaking of the new Treo smartphones, Palm has been working to redesign the Treo form factor as something that is functional and more in line with other contemporary smartphones. The biggest things that readers of Foleo Fanatics are getting excited about is the completion of Palm’s next-generation Linux-based operating system, Palm OS II/Nova and the possibility of a new Foleo.

Palm OS II/Nova is going to be the successor to Palm OS 5 which is running on today’s Palm smartphones and traditional handheld PDAs. But Palm OS II/Nova isn’t just for smartphones. Palm has said it will become a platform around which more than just smartphones will be based on. This means that any new Foleo or Foleo-like device will be running this new OS platform.

Happy Anniversary fellow Foleo Fanatics! Here’s to another year of news and analysis of all things Palm!

Colligan Talks Palm OS II, Foleo II

APC.com, the digital extension of APC Magazine, published an article online yesterday about Palm, their upcoming Linux operating system, and a glimmer of hope for another run at the Foleo.

Of the new Linux-based successor to the current version of Palm OS, APC writes:

“…Colligan calls it “Palm OS” and later “Palm 2.0”, both times his fingers drawing quotation marks in the air as he speaks. Palm 2.0, as in Web 2.0, although he makes it clear that “I’m not coming up with the branding right now – whether it’s Palm OS 2.0 or Next Generation, we’re not coming up with the branding right now. But this is something different to this” he says, pointing to the Centro.

Colligan speaks of this as being a “next-generation operating system with much more capabilities, driven around the Internet and Web-based applications”. It reminds us of a very modern take on the original OS, as well as a revisiting of the strategy which saw Palm create everything from the OS to the handhelds. It worked fine for Palm in the early days, and it’s working pretty well for Apple too.

“We’re focused on executing our own system, mostly because we really believe that to create the most compelling solution it should be an integrated package much like we started with the Palm OS and doing the original Palm Pilots: we did the operating system, we did the hardware and we did the whole synching architecture and the desktop tie-in, which is equivalent to the Web these days. One of the things we wanted to do is to make sure that we had an end-to-end solution we really controlled and could deliver the end-user experience we want to deliver. We think it’s going to be stunning and breakthrough in its execution, and we’re working on some very exciting new devices to go with it”.

But APC wasn’t just going to ask Mr. Colligan about Palm OS II. They also asked about the possibility of a future Foleo product that Colligan alluded to some months ago in his notice to the Palm user community that the original Foleo project was being canceled. APC writes:

Not all of those [Palm OS 2.0] devices will be smartphones. While Colligan axed the much-maligned Foleo ‘mobile companion’ notebook, he admits the concept (if not the brand) could make a comeback.

“I still believe the idea will be vindicated some day. But the core decision behind that product cancellation was really driven by that we were developing this whole new operating system that is going to bring a new user experience, (but the Foleo) had been started under a different design centre, a different thought process and a different set of system software. I really want there to be one Palm user experience, and so we’ll come back around to that idea when we’re done delivering that experience”.

Indeed, when Colligan canned the Foleo just short of the product’s debut in September 2007, he said noted that he was cancelling “the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration” and reiterated that “the market category defined by Foleo has enormous potential. When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category.”

These are encouraging remarks from Palm’s skipper. I am, as many of you are also, looking forward to new devices built around Palm’s new Palm OS II operating system.

Read the full APC.com article here