While roaming the show floor at Digital Life looking for video opportunities, I bumped into Palm CEO Ed Colligan who was standing in Palm's booth where the company's new Centro phone, announced yesterday morning, was on display. After we mic'd him-up and fired up the video camera. I asked Colligan to show us the Centro and after we were done talking about that, I asked him if recently backburnered Foleo project had any hope of being resurrected.
Appropriately named, the Centro goes for the center of the cell phone buyer's market where Palm has never really played. According to Colligan, not everyone needs or wants a smartphone like the Treo. In the video, Colligan rattles of some statistics about the number of phone buyers in the market who still look for the basics -- the ability to make voice calls, do some text messaging, and go on the Web (which is pretty standard fare for phones these days).
The design goals for the Centro then, were to come up with a 3G handset designed to go after that "heart" of the market with a best-in-class device that wasn't a smartphone but that used the Palm OS and that was available for under $100. That's exactly what the Centro is. It's not a smartphone but it clearly looks to trickle some smartphone features (like a keyboard) into a more standard cell phone at a great price point.
For me personally, it was funny to hear Colligan talking about Palm putting a less complex device (clearly less complex than the Treo) on the market. In my last Tech Shakedown, I talked about how smartphones are so complex that they crash a lot (reminscent of early day PCs). After being a smartphone user for so long, I've been thinking about scaling back to something less complex that just works.
After Colligan and I finished talking about (and looking at the Centro), we talked about Palm's Foleo project which the company recently put on ice. According to Colligan, the Foleo may be on ice, but it's the next generation Palm platform inside of it that the Foleo really represented and he said that it is most definitely the future for Palm and it will come back but just exactly what form factor it comes back in is yet to be decided.