Ultimate Launch Wrap-Up: Palm's New Foleo Does What Exactly?


OK, so the rumors weren't rumors, just little wispy truths that have been confirmed by one big announcement: Palm has indeed built some kind of crazy laptop-like friend for the Treo, called Foleo. Suffice it to say, the initial reaction has not been overwhelmingly positive.

We handed you the press release and specs and even a gallery, we've given you the best seat in the house for the unveiling, but still something is nagging at you. What, exactly, is this baby meant to do? Is it really a supplement to your smartphone, or is Palm trying to go into the laptop business? And is $499 (after rebate) cheap as hell or way overpriced?

Let's go over the facts: It has a "real" keyboard, a rubber track-nipple, a scroll wheel, a 10-inch screen with a resolution of 1024x600 (but no touch sensitivity). It has 256MB of RAM but the only thing we know about the processor is that it handles some Flash but not the Flash video you find on YouTube. There's a video out, USB port and Bluetooth for a choice of "dial-up" networking, plus Wi-Fi in case you left your phone at home.

We know that its Linux OS runs off of solid-state memory, enabling the very sweet instant-on, instant-off function. However, we have no idea how much flash is packed in at the start. It may not be much: there's a CF slot tucked under the battery and when you plug in a card, that card becomes your "primary memory." There's also an SD slot for file transfers and auxiliary storage.

(And lest ye think we just don't have our reporting chops down, Palm specifically told us that they could not go into detail on the type and clockspeed of processor or the amount of internal flash memory at this time. Presumably because none of that is written in stone until the "summer" launch.)

On the software front, it handles photos and PDFs. You can create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Although there is a headphone jack, I don't believe anyone has mentioned anything about music or media players. There is, of course, a Web browser.

Sounds suspiciously like a laptop, yes, but according to its maker, it sure is not. Its raison d'etre is, quite specifically, mobile email.

It supports VersaMail right out of the box on Palm OS, including Pop and IMAP accounts, and it supports Pocket Outlook for Windows Mobile phones. Everything relating to your email (including attachments and changes made to those attachments) are synced between the smartphone and the Foleo. Palm is interested in welcoming others to the Foleo fold—the likes of RIM, Apple and Nokia—and says support for any of their platforms would be easy to implement.

To be sure, though it works as a standalone, it's this pairing process that makes the Foleo complete. Some benefits like high-speed Net access via an EVDO-capable Treo 755p are impressive, though I wouldn't want to be stuck using a GPRS Treo to power a Foleo. Other perks, like the ability to set a proximity lock on your Foleo so it only functions when in range of your Treo, are just kind of cute.

The press release says it's for "productivity-minded business people who want a more complete mobile solution for email, attachments and access to the Web." When Palm founder Jeff Hawkins presented it, however, he drove the point home: "If you're not a heavy email user who needs that mobility, I'd stay away."

Pretty clear message to me. So here's the real deal: If you love your Treo or Windows Mobile phone, but wish you could just rat-tat-tat out your damn emails on a keyboard more often than not, it's for you. If you don't carry a smartphone, this is a pass. But does that mean it sucks? (Seriously, I'm really asking.)

Our coverage:
Liveblog: Palm Foleo Unveil Now!
First Palm Foleo Hands On and Impressions
Palm Foleo: A Laptop For Your Smartphone
Palm Foleo In Motion (video)

Product Page [Palm]