Blast From the Past: Palm Foleo
The Palm Foleo debuted back in 2007. This was going to be Palm’s breakthrough product in the new netbook market niche that everyone was just beginning to notice. Unfortunately for Palm, this wasn’t all that great of a design, and the Foleo died before it ever hit the market.
I picked one up on Ebay for $200. It was in reasonably good cosmetic condition for a 4 year old device. It didn’t come with the power adapter, but I picked one up at Radio Shack (12v).
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I haven’t used it extensively, but that’s because it’s not very usable by today’s standards. I did try it enough to understand what an odd little beast it was. First and foremost among its quirks is that it didn’t have a home screen or desktop. Unlike virtually every device made since Windows 1.0, the Foleo displayed its list of installed apps as a dropdown menu in the upper left corner. That menu pops up over what ever you have open at the moment.
Actually, that menu design made sense. The Foleo lacks a trackpad, and while the track pointer works well, I’m not sure it’s up to navigating around a desktop. Placing the menus in the dropdown means that you can open another app without removing your hands from the keyboard.
Speaking of apps, the Foleo died with such speed that not very many apps were made for it. Most of what I’ve found were the beta releases of office apps, and I’ve also found that some older Flash games will run on it. I couldn’t find a reading app, but Ibis Reader, a browser based Epub app, worked okay.
The Foleo is (by today’s standards) under-powered and it’s running an out of date web browser. Its other major limitation was that its email client required a phone to sync with. While I’m sure that made sense to Palm, it also hobbled the Foleo.
It has a 10″ screen, Wifi, USB port, SD card slot, and an internal CF card slot (in the battery compartment). The CPU is rated at 416MHz, and it feels slower than devices I’ve owned with comparable CPUs.
But the rest of the hardware design is surprisingly solid. I haven’t touched it in a couple weeks and it still has a nearly full battery. For a device that is in sleep mode, not off, that is a remarkable achievement – especially considering the age of the device.
BTW, this isn’t the first netbook, not by a longshot. But it was one of the first to be marketed under the name netbook (even though it never hit the market).
The original netbook was released by Psion in 2003. It really was called the Psion Netbook, and that is where the name first appeared. It had a 7″ touchscreen and a cramped keyboard, as well as several card slots and ports. It ran one of the last versions of EPOC, the OS that Psion developed for their line of pocketable organizers.
That was the first of several netbooks that Psion released before abandoning the niche. There was also a Windows CE model called the Netbook Pro. And the Psion Series 7 had slightly different hardware and was the very last EPOC device to be released. Shortly afterwards Psion sold the rights to EPOC to Nokia, who turned it into Symbian.
Getting back to the Foleo, I have to say that it’s not a bad design. If not for the fact that it was dependent on a smartphone, I would think that this design would have done well back in 2007. It certainly had the hype and the developer support. Had it been launched as a standalone device it would likely have at least held its own.
P.S. Does anyone know who developed the hardware design? They’re good. I’d like to see what else they’ve worked on.