There’s this guy over at Palm Infocenter who really got on my tits about the Flopeo. So much so that I went to YouTube and looked at the damned videos of it.
I just looked at the one Treocentral did and had an epiphany.
The Foleo is Palm’s exit strategy from handhelds.
They will drop PDAs (which I think is a shame; like Casio, they should stay in with at least one model per year) and they will drop smartphones.
PDAs because, they claim, the market is dying (why it is dying is I think due to Palm’s rotten lousy software; see here).
Smartphones because of several reasons, the monster one of all being the iPhone. Palm, come up with something that could actually compete with the iPhone? Palm just doesn’t have it in them to do that. The second reason has to do with carrier restrictions (see the debacle over the still-unreleased Treo 700p update) denying Palm its own destiny. The third reason being that, within five years from now, I believe, phones will go away and become generic chipset components in other devices, much like Bluetooth and WiFi are today.
What the Foleo represents is Palm’s attempt to rewrite the mobile computing market. They will begin with their original innovation: device synchronization. First with their own Treos, but rapidly branching out to encompass all other devices, which would desperately include the iPhone (boy, what they’ll have to offer Steve Jobs for that plum is beyond my imagination!). By using syncing, they will be able to insinuate themselves into larger form factor mobile computing without seeming to actually be a blatant competitor. “The Foleo a notebook computer? Aw, shucks, no. It’s just a mobile companion!” Right. Eventually, it will be the mobile companion: what people will buy instead of a Windows-based notebook, instead of a MacBook, instead of an Intel MID, instead of a Pepper Pad, instead of a Nokia Internet Tablet. They are gambling that they can be to mobile computing what Microsoft/Intel has been to desktop computing.
Or at least that is their dream.
Can they do it?
I’ve had to admit that I’m probably the wrong person to see the potential market for the Foleo. I don’t do mobile email. I use web-based free YahooMail. Foleo wants POP3 for its email client. Although GoogleMail offers free POP3, I’m not about to switch. I like YahooMail. I’m probably a dinosaur when it comes to email. Perhaps there really are jillions of people out there for whom an easy-to-use sorta-notebook-like computer to make email better is just the cat’s meow they’ve been waiting to hear. It could be that I’m totally disqualified to judge the Foleo because I’m so far out of its target market. Maybe, this time (and unlike the time of their PDA-centric days), Palm has excellent market research to back up this product.
Goddammit, I hate giving free advice to companies, so let me put on this disguise: This is what the Foleo would need to have to get me to buy it:
* Excellent word processor with spell-checking/thesaurus: Documents To Go I just can’t trust. After hours and hours of formatting documents on the old TE, it managed over and over again to wipe out that effort. Why should I ever trust it again? As for spell-checking, make the leap and do it like the Mac: systemwide.
* Firefox. I’ve used Opera on the Nokia 770. It’s shit. Period. Shit!! Give me Firefox.
* Every current Firefox plug-in now available and all future ones too. I want my Download Helper, dammit!
* WordPress blogging client. And if not specifically that, least some sort of blogging front-end, like this. Let me be able to compose everything offline (I’m typing this online), including inserting photos, and allow me to ship it all upstream to WordPress with one mouse click (or, on the Foleo, button press).
* The same abilities I have today on a Windows-based machine to rip any video or audio stream. This is just non-negotiable.
* Photo editing capability. Nothing extravagant. I’m currently using a free Windows program called Photo Toolkit. It does what I need in a program to place photos in my blog: crop, rescaling, resampling, rotate, etc. No overlays or things like that.
* Palm Desktop. OK, so if you’re not going to have the Foleo run PalmOS, then at least let me sync with my LifeDrive and use full-out Palm Desktop!
* YouTube, dammit. How can anyone these days ship a product that doesn’t work with The New TV?
* iTunes. Oh, yeah. Maybe that’s what Palm can offer Apple: let them be the exclusive media player that comes already installed on the Foleo. Everyone (well, 99% of everyone) has an iPod. A Net-connected device like the Foleo just begs to be used for MP3 purchases.
This list is off the top of my head as I sit at the keyboard. I’m not sitting back and compiling a thoughtful, comprehensive list. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve left off something obvious.
So, I’ve — partially — seen the light when it comes to the Foleo. It remains to be seen, however, if it will actually sell or indeed live down to the rebranding I’ve given it: Flopeo.
And there’s one thing you can be certain of in all this: Microsoft. They’ve suddenly gotten the syncing religion. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start talking about “sync clients” and “sync hosts” and “peer syncing” and even try to devise and promote a Universal Device Sync Protocol.