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Palm’s Fate

Posted on Monday, Jun 4th 2007

With the mobile world awaiting the arrival of the iPhone, which I believe is positioned as a laptop replacement convergence device, Palm has just released its own laptop replacement product.

Key points of the Foleo: [With my comments]

* Positioning : ProSumer Mobile Companion, that works with a smartphone and keeps it synched. [Not a convergence device, but one that wants to keep the phone and add yet another device, making this not a convergence device, but rather just another Linux laptop.]

* OS : Linux. [Good choice, to compete with Mac OS. Palm OS or Windows Mobile would not be sufficient.]

* Killer App : One button email access, web browsing and attachment handling. [Reasonable bets.]

* Battery life : 5 Hours. [Good, if it is true. Laptops advertised as having 5-6 hour battery life still only deliver 2-hours of real productive life.]

* Screen : 10.2 inch. [Very good.]

* Keyboard : Full-size. [Very good.]

* Price : $499. [Good.]

* Boot-time : Instant, unlike Windows. [Great.]

* MS Office Support : Viewers, but not editors. Cannot create Powerpoint slides, but can view them and edit them. [My biggest objection, and why this doesn’t qualify as a laptop replacement device or a laptop. Makes it neither here nor there.]

* Audio : Yes. [Good.]

* Video : Yes, but not good. [Bad.]

* Phone : No. Works with a SmartPhone. [Bad. Needs to subsume the phone.]

In summary, the direction isn’t bad … a Linux laptop replacement device. But it needs to be full replacement, not half. Especially for the ProSumer, the lack of full MS Office capability just kills it for me. I just won’t sign up for adding one more device, and I suspect, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Palm’s uncertain future remains uncertain at this point, and Foleo is unlikely to salvage the company. A transaction needs to happen, and it will. When it does, perhaps, evolving the Foleo to a true laptop-replacement convergence device that can meaningfully compete against the iPhone would be just great. And then, Palm could be a great asset for its new parents.

Related writings:

* iPhone and the Future of Palm
* Should Dell Acquire Palm?
* Palm’s Turnaround Formula

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[…] My analysis of the recently released Foleo says that the Linux laptop direction, and the aspirations to become a convergence device, are on the mark directionally. […]

Sramana Mitra on Strategy » Blog Archive » Palm Gets Rubinstein Monday, June 4, 2007 at 10:28 AM PT

If the Foleo can be a real laptop-lite, I’ll love it. My MacBook is too costly to risk having it stolen or destroyed, its battery life isn’t great, start-up time always stinks, and it does more than I really need it to do when I haul it somewhere. To be honest, my Palm TX does almost everything, but it crashes too frequently, resets suck plenty of power, that screen less legible every year, and no Unicode support (for Japanese input).

Video playback on a Foleo currently has little attraction for me, but I need Japanese input/Unicode support, the ability to edit files and display PDFs, syncing with my MacBook (or perhaps syncing via a server), and an Ethernet jack, because WiFi isn’t everywhere (and I am skeptical whether the Foleo will work with Japan’s cell phones and networks).

Some of my colleagues use subnotebook computers, which is what the Foleo could be. If that’s what it became, I think Japanese customers would welcome it.

Mowog Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 8:08 AM PT

[…] iPhone launch, Foleo still remains Palm’s only response so […]

iPhone Competitors: Palm - Sramana Mitra on Strategy Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 8:15 AM PT