NEWS: Palm pulls the plug on fledgling Foleo

Palm Inc.'s foray into a new category of laptop devices has died.

Chief Executive Officer Ed Colligan said Tuesday the Foleo, a lightweight computing device meant to be paired with a smart phone, is being canceled just three months after it was announced. Colligan said the challenge of creating the Foleo alongside Palm's traditional business of smart phones and personal digital assistants proved too much for the Sunnyvale company.

"Foleo is based on (a) second platform and a separate development environment, and we need to focus our efforts on one platform," Colligan wrote on the company's blog. "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 cannot afford to make those improvements on a platform that is not central to our core focus."

Palm has been working on a new operating system for its Palm Treo smart phone that would work with Linux, a flexible platform that would allow better multitasking for Palm's handsets. Colligan said the company will focus on delivering that platform before considering a return to the Foleo. Palm will take a one-time charge of $10 million to cover the cost of the Foleo, he said.

The Foleo was the pet project of Palm founder Jeff Hawkins, who proclaimed in May it was "the most exciting product I've worked on in a long time." The device looked like a small laptop and was meant to work in tandem with a smart phone, allowing users to easily check e-mail and surf the Web. The company had originally said the device would go on sale by the end of the summer.

But from the start, the Foleo was met with criticism from analysts who questioned its appeal and its prospects for success. Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates and one of the early critics of the Foleo, said the move to ax the device was necessary.

Reply to
John Navas
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Rock bottom for Palm and Hawkins?

Suddenly, it seems even more fitting that a company called Elevation Partners recently took a stake in Palm.

This might be rock bottom for the storied mobile-computing company. The decision to cancel the Foleo even before letting people get their hands on it is an embarrassing admission that Palm's vision of the computing world is way off base from the rest of the world, and it's a black mark on the otherwise stellar career of Palm founder Jeff Hawkins.

It's hard to dump too much on Hawkins. The man invented the Palm Pilot and the Treo. I once invented a novel method of stacking beer cans in a fridge (the key is not to buy any food). But after Hawkins unveiled the Foleo at the D: All Things Digital conference--arguably the most prestigious gathering of the computing elite--with proclamations like "it's the best idea I've ever had" and "the most exciting product I have ever worked on"--Palm's decision to cancel it without even a product launch must be mortifying for Hawkins.

Now, Hawkins has his own company, Numenta, which is trying to develop a computer that works like the human brain. If he pulls that off, we'll forget all about the Foleo.

But what is Palm going to do? Speaking of mortifying, Ed Colligan must be wondering why he gave Hawkins $10 million to go down into the basement and come up with Palm's Next Big Thing, only to emerge with the Foleo. Almost universally panned by analysts and bloggers, the Foleo was a lightweight Linux "mobile companion" that was designed to read e-mail, but didn't work with corporate e-mail software from RIM or Motorola, among a multitude of other sins.

Palm has squandered its position in the mobile-computing world by failing to improve its operating system since 2004, come up with a noticeably different Treo since the Treo 600, or clearly articulate any vision of where the company thinks smart phone development is headed. The company wisely hooked up with Microsoft to ship Windows Mobile Treos, otherwise this post might have been written a year ago. But it has watched companies like Motorola, RIM, LG, Nokia and even Apple pass it by while it tried to make its biggest splash of the year with a product canceled just three months later. Imagine the reaction if Apple had canceled the iPhone in April.

Reply to
John Navas

That's what happens when you tell the press about a new product before you tell it's designers about it! ;-)

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Todd Allcock Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.