Earlier this week, I posted a video of Palm's forthcoming Foleo. (pictured right). The Foleo is neither fish (notebook PC) nor fowl (PDA/smarthphone). Rather, it's a bit of 'tweener. As you can see from the original post, it may look like a notebook PC. But in reality, it's more like a PDA with a full-sized keyboard and a larger display. In addition to doing what many PDA's and personal information managers (including Palm's original Palm Pilot) have historically done, it can also browse the Web provided you can get a connection. In that last post on the Foleo, I wrote:
One serious downside is that it doesn’t appear to have a hard-wired Ethernet port (I’m still waiting for confirmation on this). So, if you’re looking for better performance out of your network (for faster Web browsing) than what your Treo can offer (over a wireless carrier’s network), you’re not going to find it from that Ethernet jack in the wall.
Some of ZDNet's readers dinged me for not mentioning that the Foleo can connect to a network over WiFi. I did in fact overlook the WiFi support. But in fairness, I said in the original post that I was waiting for a confirmation of my assumptions. Earlier today, I spoke with Palm's director of product communications Jim Christensen to get that and other questions answered. Here's what I learned:
- The Foleo has a WiFi radio that can be used for Web access. It does not have a hard-wired Ethernet port.
- The Foleo includes software for reading, composing, and replying to e-mails. But, given the way the software cannot directly connect to an e-mail server, Palm does not categorize the software as an e-mail client. The only way this e-mail reader/composer/replier can retrieve/send e-mail is through synchronization with a supported smartphone such as Palm's Treo.
- Although the Foleo has a USB port, the only supported form of connectivity between the Foleo and a supported smartphone is through Bluetooth.
- Beyond its Treo smartphones (both Windows Mobile-based and PalmOS-based), Palm intends to announce support for other Windows Mobile-based smartphones provided they support the same Bluetooth and e-mail technologies found in the Windows-Mobile based Treo.
- The e-mail "software" cannot communicate with e-mail servers through the WiFi connection.
- If a WiFi connection is not present, the Foleo can, via Dial Up Networking through a supported smartphone, connect to the Web over your wireless carriers network.
- Palm will eventually release a software development kit (SDK) so that third parties can develop software for the Foleo. But it has not yet announced the date of the SDK's release.
Readers also dinged me for mentioning that the Foleo runs on Linux. While it's a point of interest for some, in terms of what the Foleo does, I don't see this as an important issue given how Palm is marketing the Foleo. The entire idea behind the Foleo is the sort of simplicity that Palm's original Pilot was reknowned for. One aspect of that simplicity is how the Pilot's entire user interface was through it's applications. Pilot users didn't know or care what operating system was under the hood of those applications. It didn't matter as long as the applications did what they were designed to do.
Will the OS matter to developers? Sure. But the majority of people who end up using a Foleo will be using it to get some basic things done and, to them, the operating system will be completely irrelevant as it should be.
That's it for now. If the Motorola Q I've been using is one of the supported smartphones, I'm hoping that Palm will let me give the Foleo a workout. More to come, hopefully.