Palm unveils device to bridge smart phone, laptop gap

Palm Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a notepad-sized device that it hopes will find favour with mobile workers by bridging the gap between smart phones and laptop computers.

Palm Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a notepad-sized device that it hopes will find favour with mobile workers by bridging the gap between smart phones and laptop computers.

Palm founder Jeff Hawkins revealed the Foleo wireless e-mail device in a web-cast press conference held at the AllThingsD technology conference in New York.

"Sometimes you need a large screen and a full-sized keyboard," Hawkins said of the device, which has been in development for five years.

"It was conceived five years ago but it didn't make sense to make it five years ago," Hawkins said, explaining that Palm had waited for the smart phone market to grow enough to create demand for the device.

"There are 24 million people who get their e-mail on their smart phone today," he said.

The instant on Foleo, which has no moving parts, runs on the open source operating system Linux and works with both Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices, Hawkins said.

However, he cautioned that it has not been tested with all smart phones, so he could not yet guarantee the Foleo would work with any specific device other than those made by Palm.

The Foleo can handle e-mail and office documents and also lets users surf the web through the built-in Opera browser. It goes online through a Wi-Fi connection or by linking to a smart phone by Bluetooth.

Talking to others

Palm is talking to a range of smart phone vendors to get the broadest possible industry support for the Foleo, Hawkins said.

"It is our intent to support every smart phone," he said. "We'd like to support RIM … Symbian and if Apple opens their platform we'd like to support them as well, he said, referring to the iPhone, which is to launch in the U.S later this month.

At a press event in Toronto, Palm Americas International president Michael Moskowitz echoed Hawkins's statements to CBC News Online, saying the eventual goal is to let people to use any Bluetooth-enabled phone — not just smart phones — with the Foleo.

"That's our intent — we are hoping for compatibility with other phones at launch," Moskowitz said.

But he emphasized that initially Palm would be looking to its users
to take up the Foleo.

"There are 200,000 Treos in Canada," Moskowitz said, referring to the
company's flagship smart phone. "This customer today — in my opinion,
in our opinion, in Palm's opinion — is a Treo customer."

The new device is set to launch this fall for $600 to $700 in Canada.

Asked in New York if the Foleo could run video clips, Hawkins
admitted that some high-end multimedia uses would not run well on the
device, at least initially.

"There are some limitations — I'll be honest," Hawkins said. "You go
to YouTube and some of the videos are choppy — we're not happy with

"We do not have a video viewer out of the gate or MP3 capability out
of the gate," Moskowitz said. "But we have it on the Treo so we should
be able to have it on a Linux device as well."

Moskowitz said Palm is not discussing how much memory and storage
capacity the Foleo would have at launch but pointed to the SD and
Compact Flash memory card slots as key features that should be able to
address users' needs.

Over time, the Foleo will gain features and capabilities, just as
Palm's other devices have, and could one day become a laptop
replacement, Hawkins said.

But for now, the device is meant primarily for mobile e-mail users
seeking a large-screen experience.

"You can actually use it for five hours — real usage on Wi-Fi," and
charge it overnight like a cellphone, Hawkins said.