Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Foleo: Hawkins peculiar extension to the mobile phone

Hawkins designed the original (since debased) PalmPilot as an extension to the PC rather than a Newtonish replacement for a PC, now he's imaging the Linux-based Foleo as an extension to a phone (emphases mine):

Hands-On with the Palm Foleo: More Cool Features - News and Analysis by PC Magazine

... To respond, you need to be near a Wi-Fi spot or use the smart phone as a modem via its Bluetooth connection, which is why Hawkins calls Foleo a mobile companion and emphasizes the role of the smart phone in this type of digital lifestyle.

... It weighs about 2.4 pounds but feels much lighter, and even with its small battery it can deliver five full hours (even while using Wi-Fi the entire time). The large screen supports 1024-by-600 or 1024-by-768 VGA resolution. Navigation is done through a TrackPoint nub in the keyboard and it has a roller wheel below the keyboard to provide fast and easy scrolling. Foleo's price at launch will be $499 and it should be on the market by mid-summer.

... Foleo would give them a light, lower-cost option that could make it easy to hit the road without a laptop. But, whether planned or not, Hawkins may have actually hit on a more powerful mobile-computing idea. Since this is a small, lightweight Linux computer, it could eventually become a new stand-alone portable-computing platform that the Linux or open-source crowd embraces...

I don't get it. You can't put it in your pocket and it weighs and costs about as much as an XP laptop, but it doesn't replace a laptop. I assume it uses Flash instead of a hard drive. It sports an OS that corporate IT types will never accept (i.e. not Microsoft). It reminds me of the legendary Tandy 100 (I think that was the number -- the original road warrior palmtop), the numerous failed WinCE palmtops, the very shortlived Newton portable, the never-released PenPoint device ...

I just don't get it. A computing/email/browser extension for something like the hideous Motorola RAZR makes sense, but this isn't it. Either Hawkins has lost it or there's another part of the puzzle we don't know about ...

Update 6/2/07: Stross says there's another part of the puzzle. He claims it's a covert web 2.0 network computer device, Larry Ellison's old dream made real. I hate to think Hawkins has lost it, so I hope Stross is right. I still can't see it working within Palm's life expectancy however.

Update 6/4/07: Still trying to figure out how the Foleo makes sense. It makes very little sense by itself. What, however, if the Foleo enabled Palm to produce something like the iPhone?
via Brighthand

... Since that announcement, Palm's Jeff Hawkins told CNET that because the Foleo gives smartphone users the option of full-sized keyboard, then it might no longer be necessary for the Treo to have its own smaller one.

I don't want to reveal too much. But I can now think through the problem differently. I can think through tradeoffs. Well, if I have something with a bigger screen and a keyboard -- whether it looks like this (Foleo) or something else -- where I can view and manipulate data, does it change how I design this guy (pointing to Treo)? Yes.

Hawkins also suggested that Treo with larger screens or smaller form factors might also be possible.

Now it sounds like a multimedia Linux Palm/phone with an external Linux screen/keyboard option. The first part of the equation sounds a lot like an iPhone, but Apple hasn't yet announced its plans for an external screen/keyboard. This is something I used to ask about eons ago (on usenet actually); it makes sense to me.

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