Random Thoughts: Palm Foleo and Mobility in General

by PocketGoddess on May 31, 2007

When I got the news about Palm’s product announcement, I was eagerly anticipating something that would pull me out of the mobility doldrums and excite my inner geek. It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly excited by a new handheld, mainly because for the last two to three years we’ve seen a lot of incremental improvement in existing devices, but nothing truly groundbreaking. This is especially true for someone like me who prefers a more traditional standalone handheld (with WiFi instead of a cellular radio) because I don’t want price and features to be dictated to me by a mobile carrier and have no desire to be shackled to an exorbitant monthly bill.
I remember the heady days when I got my first Palm IIIx and was simply blown away with what I was able to accomplish, and the feelings continued years later with the excitement of the m505, the Sony Clie NR70 with the cool twisting screen, and of course the Palm Tungsten T and the Tapwave Zodiac. So when I got the details about the new Palm Foleo, I was somewhat disappointed. It’s an interesting device that fills a niche in the mobile productivity market, but it’s missing some key features that would have made it much more appealing to students and other folks who need something in between a full laptop and a pared-down smartphone.
It’s hard to look at the Foleo without focusing on what it doesn’t have, such as video capabilities or the ability to run software beyond Versamail and the built-in browser. It also introduces some new problems, since in effect it’s a “satellite of a satellite” that isn’t able to do much on its own because it relies on Bluetooth synchronization with your Treo. The concept is pretty cool, but the cost of entry is quite high–$500 for early adopters ($600 plus a $100 mail in rebate), plus the requisite smartphone and voice/data plan if you want anytime access to the Internet without relying on WiFi hotspots. It’s also yet another device to carry, when the Treo is supposed to be an all-in-one that takes the place of a PDA, mobile phone, and music player.
For almost as long as I can remember I’ve been lusting after the “perfect device” which the Foleo could have been if it were a fully-fledged PDA in its own right. Imagine the possibilities inherent in having a “PDA” with a large screen and a full keyboard, like a Dana on steroids. The Dana never really worked for me because the display was simply too limiting, though I loved having an integrated keyboard in a durable one piece unit. The Foleo is lightweight and is expected to have good battery life, and at $600 if it were able to run the full suite of Palm OS applications I would have been much more likely to buy one. I could even live without an integrated keyboard if someone would make a handheld with a larger screen for more enjoyable ebook reading, more useful weekly and monthly calendar views, etc.
I’ve done a lot of work on my PDA (be it a Palm OS or Windows Mobile device) over the years, and I’ve often wished for a bigger screen so that I can get the “big picture” on whatever I’m doing. Writing product reviews and magazine articles on the small screen is more challenging than you might think, since it’s impossible to see much more than a paragraph at a time. The keyboard issue was solved a long time ago, with peripherals ranging from the original Landware GoType to the folding Bluetooth keyboards available today. Of course by the time you add the keyboard and a cradle to prop up the handheld, you might have been better off just bringing a laptop in the first place.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking and waiting for the perfect device that will fulfill all of my mobile productivity and entertainment needs. I’ve been relatively pleased with my Dell Axim X51v, aside from the random synchronization problems that crop up every now and then, but for now I’m still on the hunt. I’d like something smaller than my 10″ Fujitsu LifeBook so that I’ll be more likely to carry it with me all the time, but not as small as the OQO 02. I was sorely tempted earlier this month when I heard the OQO was finally shipping, but ultimately decided that it was a little too small for my needs. I’m extremely interested in both the HTC Shift (Vista Business, 7″ touchscreen, 30GB hard drive) and the HTC Advantage (Windows Mobile 6, 5″ touchscreen, 8GB hard drive, 3 megapixel camera, integrated GPS, and detachable keyboard) and hope that one of them will work for me. If not, there’s always the next big product announcement to get my hopes up. . . .
What about you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: