Palm Foleo First Thoughts

Late this spring, Palm, Inc. took the wraps off the Foleo, the first device in its new third product category. When it debuts in the next few months, this won't be a handheld or smartphone, instead it will something Palm is calling a mobile companion, recently spent some time with a prototype unit, and I'd like to share my first impressions.


One of the most important features of the Foleo is obvious at first glance: it's really quite small. For something shaped like a laptop, I mean. Naturally I didn't get a chance to carry one around for a few days to get a real idea of how convenient it's going to be, but it's certainly going to be easier than lugging around my full-size laptop. This device has a nice rubberized coating and ridges on its top, so I wouldn't worry too much about dropping it. The Foleo isn't held closed with a latch, and can be opened with one hand after a bit of practice. This exposes the 10-inch display and full size QWERTY keyboard. At 1024 by 600 pixels, the screen has a higher resolution than many UMPCs, and was definitely large enough to easily display web pages, documents, and emails.

In Use

I didn't get a chance to see the Foleo's biggest trick, its ability to keep itself synchronized with a smartphone. The web surfing I did was using Wi-Fi. Despite this device's similarity to a laptop, there's at least one significant difference between it and a PC or Mac: there's no desktop. To switch applications you hit the "Apps" button on the keyboard, which opens up a drop-down window that operates a lot like the Start Menu in Windows. All file management is handled through a dedicated file manager. Let me emphasize here that my time with the Foleo was very limited, but I think I got the basics down. The web browser is good, but it's certainly not Internet Explorer or Firefox. It can handle most web pages, and I even went to Home Star Runner to confirm that it correctly displays Flash-based web sites. But it's not perfect. Many of the advertisements on Brighthand didn't display correctly, for example. And, or course, plug-ins designed for other browsers won't work. When you want to get on the Internet, you have the choice of either making a direct connection via Wi-Fi or making a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, and then using that device as a modem. If I understand correctly, if you tell the Foleo pick whatever's available it will choose the Bluetooth option before Wi-Fi.

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