Palm’s Foleo

At one point I pontificated on this spot about handhelds and mobile technology on a fairly regular basis, and though I haven’t used a handheld in a year, having since reverted to pen and notepad, I should nevertheless say something about the Foleo mobile companion, the laptop-like thingy that Palm announced, or rather pre-announced, last week.

A lot of people were underwhelmed. To be fair, this thing is not likely targeted at them, it’s not targeted at me, and it’s probably not targeted at you. Who it’s targeted at, as Charlie Stross points out, are corporate mobile warriors: the ones who spend all their time in meetings, on the road or in the air, and who spend little time in their offices; the sort that cannot long be separated from their Treos, BlackBerries or other smartphones. This thing syncs — but to a smartphone, not to a computer. It’s essentially a thin client that allows you to work on office documents and e-mail and surf the web. It’s definitely not a laptop.

The pity for many of us (I suspect) is that the Foleo is, as Frodo would say, “near, but not in the gold.” If this thing synced to a computer rather than a smartphone — if it were, essentially, a PDA in the shape of a two-pound mini-laptop with a 10-inch screen — my credit card would have been out within an hour of its announcement. Because such a device would have been a dandy writing tool. For such a purpose, a full laptop is overkill; a PDA has too small a screen. But that’s not the Foleo’s niche.

The laptops that are cheap are not tiny; the laptops that are tiny are not cheap. The Foleo manages to be both, but at the cost of considerable computing power. For many, however, this will be an acceptable sacrifice.

Brighthand has a FAQ on the Foleo.

In Canada in particular, the Foleo would be even more appealing if even one cell network offered unlimited wireless data, as is commonly done in other countries. A large screen, keyboard and web browser would encourage a lot of data use — wireless bills in the hundreds of dollars would inevitably follow.

Bottom line: not for the unwashed masses — ever notice how the tech industry seems to prefer the corporate market to the consumer? — at this time.