I got an interesting comment this morning on my old post about the Palm Foleo that I wanted to share. While I disagree with the comment, it raised an interesting point.
The reader took issue with my point that the Foleo had a number of deficiencies, in particular the fact that it had no email client of its own but instead required Palm smartphone in order to send and receive emails.
I think you are wrong, they were just light years ahead of its time & poorly marketed.
Dumb display devices that are dependent on a smart phone for processing power, like the Foleo format, will be the norm with in 3 years.
This comment caught my eye because in the past couple days Asus started showing off the PadPhone. I haven’t mentioned it here, but the PadPhone is a smartphone that has an optional tablet accessory. Snap the phone into the socket on the back and you turn 4.3″ phone into a 10″ Android tablet.
Now the PadPhone might not be quite what my reader meant, but it comes close to the concept. The 10″ screen has batteries, ports, and card slots, but it doesn’t have the CPU. That’s in the phone. So the 10″ is in effect a dumb display tethered to a smart device.
My reader sees this as the wave of the future, but I disagree. There are only a handful if devices in this category now, and all the trends seem to be moving in the other direction.
For example, RIM launched the BB PlayBook last year as a tethered device. It had no email client of its own and required that you use either browser based option (gmail, for example), or get a Blackberry.
RIM corrected this error few weeks back when they released OS2 for the Playbook. Among other things, it added an email client. If tethered devices were the right idea, then why did RIM pull back?
But that’s just one example; let’s consider the general trends in hardware and services.
One of the ideas behind a tethered device is that you can cut the hardware costs by eliminating the CPU and other extraneous components. That is not worth the bother anymore.
I have $100 tablets on my desk. Their total parts cost is somewhere under $10 (each). Do you really care enough about that $10 that you’d want to cripple the tablet? I just don’t think it’s worth it.
Another reason to like the dumb display idea is that it eliminated the problem of syncing accounts across multiple devices (at least, that’s why I think the Foleo lacked an email client).
First, I don’t see how that was ever problem. But even if it were an issue, it’s long since been solved. I regularly sync my email across several gadgets (I forget how many). Pretty much all the online services know how to do that now. Even syncing files isn’t much an issue any more. What with Dropbox and other online storage sites, any truly mobile person has already moved the important stuff online.
Now, I still think that Asus will sell a few PadPhones. But I don’t see this as being the first gadget in a large niche. It’s specialty device that will suit some users but not all.
There are situations where dumb displays will work, but mobile devices aren’t one. What do you think?