Mobile pioneer Palm's last product before it was acquired (and then smothered) by HP was a thin-client netbook called the Foleo. Designed to be paired with a Palm smartphone, the Foleo could do little on its own and didn't last long enough to live up to its potential.
It was poorly received, and was soon canceled, but it survived long enough to inspire similar designs from Motorola, Asus, and other companies over the years. Now a couple new Foleo clones have been unveiled over the past few weeks.
The Superbook and the NexDock come from different startups and target different platforms, but they are very similar products. Both are laptop-shaped devices with keyboards screens, and trackpads but no memory, storage, or CPU.
They are designed to be a thin-client partner to a smartphone in much the same fashion as the Foleo.
The Superbook, which went up for pre-order this week, costs $99 and sports a 11" screen and 8 hours of battery life. It's intended to pair with any Android smartphone running 5.0 or above with 1GB of RAM. (Liliputing)
That's nifty, but it's not nearly as capable as the NexDock. Launched as an Indiegogo campaign earlier this month, the $149 NexDock has a 14" screen, 10Ah battery, 2 USB ports, and is intended to pair with any Windows smartphone and use Microsoft's continuum feature so that the smartphone can act as the brains of the NexDock.
The NexDock can also be paired with any mini-PC which has a USB port, including the Raspberry Pi, any Windows PC on a stick, or even a Kangaroo PC. (PCWorld)
And since the NexDock connects with its brains through the HDMI port, you should be able to plug in one of the many Android on a stick PCs floating around and use that for the brains of the NexDock. (It's worth a shot, anyway.)
Those are a couple of impressive looking demos, but it's worth remembering that these aren't products so much as promises.
As a rule, crowd-funded products don't live up to all of their promises, so rather than wait for either of these products you should consider what you can buy now that will fill the same need.
And that's an easy question, with a quick answer.
Why spend $100 to get one of the devices shown above when you can spend $150 to get a much more capable Chromebook which is an entire computer in and of its own right?
With a Chromebook sitting next to your smartphone you have two computers working for you, not one. You can get twice as much done, and not have to worry about any pesky cables (not unless you want to).
Frankly, both the Superbook and the NexDockhave the exact same flaw as the Foleo. All three devices had/have to contend with netbooks that cost about the same and yet are much more capable.
So why would you get one?
I don't know, but companies keep releasing them, so someone must be buying them.