Foleo, Foleo, Where Art Thou?

By | September 6, 2007


Caption competition:

“Is this a dagger I see before me?”

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio”

Now you see it, now you don’t

Photo from BusinessWire

It has the grim predictability of a company that doesn’t seem sure of what it’s doing, and what people want. Ever since Ed Colligan unveiled the Foleo — a Linux-based sub-sub-notebook — a few months back, folks have been saying it was a mistake. Now it’s dead.

I liked the idea, but felt it was the wrong solution: the iPhone and the Nokia N800 seem to prove people now want something that isn’t just a workhorse, but another onramp to the social web, whereas the Foleo seemed to be aimed simply at business customers. Such folk have long been used to lugging heavy stuff around, so it made no sense.

Anyway, Ed has done the right thing and knocked the project on the head, taking a $10 million hit (while sparing a moment for the poor third party developers who committed time and resources to software to run on the dang thing). What is most telling, though, are the comments left on his blog post announcing the gadget’s demise. They reveal the frustration and supportive passion of Palm users around the world, and to me illustrate what people really want from the once-great company:

  • a better interface that isn’t so buggy and unreliable.
  • better battery life (the Foleo boasted six hours. But remember the IIIx: days and days on a couple of AAAs. How far backwards have we gone?)
  • more durable. The IIIx also survived a lot of bashing about.
  • a phone that isn’t a sop to the phone companies — in other words, so it can do VoIP, work on WiFi networks as well as cellular ones.
  • find a way of getting a bigger screen onto a Treo. How about projection?  
  • GPS. Things have moved on, Ed, and nowadays we expect our devices to fit a lot more in.
  • Like good cameras. Not just for snapping, but for scanning.
  • And 3.5G.
  • And probably WiMAX.
  • And big storage.
  • And decent software that can handle PDFs, flash, browsing and interactive stuff.
  • And decent keyboards (get back in bed with the ThinkOutside guys, or whoever bought them.) I still love my Bluetooth keyboard and can’t understand why they’re considered such an afterthought.
  • Voice commands and voice recognition.
  • USB connectivity

The bottom line, is that we’ve been thinking the PDA is dead, whereas we should be thinking the other way around: The smartphone is just a PDA with connectivity. A good PDA does all these things we’ve been talking about, and while we take calls on it, that’s a small part of what it is about. We just want the things we did on our PDA to be connected, that’s all.

That’s not just about being able to take calls, it’s about SMS, email, browsing, and of being able to meld into our environment — GPS to know where we are, cameras and HSDPA and GPS to take photos that go straight to Flickr, tools like Jaiku to wrap us into our social network. It’s still a digital assistant, it’s just a connected digital assistant.

As one commenter put it, it’s still a Getting Things Done Device.It’s just we do lots of different things these days, so a to do list shouldn’t be where you stop. Tags: , , , , , ,

3 thoughts on “Foleo, Foleo, Where Art Thou?

  1. Danny

    I still don’t get it.

    In one end you get the smartphones. Attractive to the eyes, but really, unless you are a major geek you won’t get much out of them. Their OS is usually Windows Mobile, which is slow and horribly unoptimized, full of half-grown functions and these are anyway not useful when it comes to get it real, I mean by that having correct softwares with real features.

    On the other hand you have the laptops, often bulky and ofter really expensive if you want any performance. Of course you don’t call with these (let alone VoIP).

    And my poor self remember the Psion Revo (
    I bought this little thing in 2003 to type in during my classes at the university, and I wrote whole reports on it. Read the specs and you’ll understand what i regret. It was utterly fast, you could emulate a Game Boy on it, and you could merge your word processing files with your spreadsheets and drawing just like in MS Office.

    Why do I feel crooked when I’m using my Ipaq ? Oh well it plays videos and music (the psion could play music too by the way), and I have a nice jillion colors wallpaper, but I have to type my documents in HTML to give them the look I want (though the browser doesn’t even recognizes CSS correctly).
    It feels likke at some moment, the PDA industry has taken a wrong turn…

    Now, why any body hasn’t had the idea to take one of these :
    and stick a phone thingy in it ?

    Dunno, Dunnaskme…

  2. Michel S.

    I’m not sure how close the Foleo software is to the upcoming Linux-based Palm devices, but if they are indeed similar Palm could at least recoup some of their investments. Think of it as an expensive field testing experiment..

  3. Pingback: Palm Treo Pda Battery

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