Sunday, September 9, 2007

Palm Cancels Plans to Release Foleo Notebook

Palm, a leading supplier of smartphones and personal digital assistants, on Tuesday announced that it decided to cancel its Foleo mobile companion because the company decided to focus solely on its next-generation software platform. But while the plan to scrap the project seems logical, as the firm would have to support two software platforms going forward, the actual decision could be based on potentially lackluster welcome for the device among customers.

“In the course of the past several months, it has become clear that the right path for Palm is to offer a single, consistent user experience around this new platform design and a single focus for our platform development efforts. To that end, and after careful deliberation, I have decided to cancel the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration and focus all of our energies on delivering our next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market,” Ed Colligan, chief executive of Palm, wrote in the company’s corporate blog.

Palm announced plans to release its Foleo laptop back in late May. The company planned to sell the device for $499, a price-point of a smartphone, not a sub-notebook. Palm Foleo mobile companion was promised to feature with 10” screen, email client, Web browser and some basic software that allows checking emails’ attachments and performing other essential tasks. Palm said that the device weighed only 2.5 pounds would function on battery for 5 hours, a long time compared to mainstream small laptops.

The first notebook from Palm did not have its own GSM/GPRS/3G module, which means that it always needed a device that supported the aforementioned technologies to connect to the Net. Nevertheless, Palm Foleo could automatically synchronize with other Palm devices using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi wireless connection.

“Because we were nearly at the point for shipping Foleo, this was a very tough decision. Yet I am convinced this is the right thing to do. Foleo is based on second platform and a separate development environment, and we need to focus our efforts on one platform,” Mr. Colligan added.

Besides sub-notebooks, Palm’s Foleo would have to compete against ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs) from various manufacturers, which could lead to relatively poor sales of Palm’s device, as UMPCs have better functionality. Nokia, one of the primary rivals of Palm and the world’s largest maker of cell phones, announced back in 2005 its Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, which also allows advanced broadband Internet capabilities. Even though the product was available long before ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs) from various manufacturers, it still has not gained popularity. Palm also admitted that it needed to improve Foleo to make it a world-class product.

“Our own evaluation and early market feedback were telling us that we still have a number of improvements to make Foleo a world-class product, and we can not afford to make those improvements on a platform that is not central to our core focus,” claimed chief exec of Palm.
But while the first version of Foleo is now scrapped, the company does not rule out a possibility to release a similar device in future, when it has appropriate capacities in terms of development.

“Jeff Hawkins and I still believe that the market category defined by Foleo has enormous potential. When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category. We're not going to speculate now on timing for a next Foleo, we just know we need to get our core platform and smart-phones done first,” said Ed Colligan.

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