Palm announces Foleo smartphone companion

  • Carlsbad (CA) – Jeff Hawkins today announced a new product which he believes completes the vision of the company he founded: A sub-notebook-sized companion device that extends smartphones with a larger keyboard and a larger screen.  

    Called Foleo, the new product describes a new category of mobile devices. Foleo looks like a sub-notebook, but its functionality sits somewhere between a notebook and a smartphone, lacking the computing and application power of a typical notebook and lacking the cellular capability of a phone. Instead, it was designed to connect to a smartphone and provide the phone with a larger screen and keyboard – for those moments when the size of your smartphone just isn’t large enough.

    Hawkins did not reveal many technical details about the device, besides highlighting that the Foleo runs about 5 hours on one battery charge, that it comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, that the color screen runs un a 1024 x 600 resolution and that the companion is designed as a “solid state” device, meaning that it does not have a hard drive. Instead, it uses a compact flash memory card as its primary memory, which can be expanded with SD cards. The operating system is based on Linux.

    The main purpose of the device is to synchronize email and contacts with a Palm OS-based or Windows-Mobile-based smartphone. Palm said that while every Treo is supported, the company believes that any other Windows Mobile phone should work with Foleo as well. The firm is working to add support for Blackberrys and Symbian phones and would be interested in supporting the iPhone as well, if Apple is willing to open the phone up, Hawkins said.

    The software suite is rather limited at this time and includes email, an attachment viewer (supports, for example, office, PDF and image files) and a web browser. However, not all web content is supported, as the hardware will not be powerful enough to playback videos on YouTube initially, according to Hawkins.

    So, in a way, Foleo, isn’t quite a notebook and it isn’t quite a smartphone, which may raise questions why and which users should buy it. Hawkins mentioned that the device is not designed to replace a notebook for once, it will not replace a smartphone and it certainly cannot replace the iPod many travelers are bringing along on their business trips. While Foleo has some advantages, such as instant on/off capability, it is another device you potentially would have to bring along on your plane trip.

    Foleo will launch later this year for about $500, including a $100 introductory rebate.