Palm recently announced it was pulling the plug on Foleo, the mini-notebook system it had announced a few months ago. It appears as though the reason was resource constraint within Palm - too many different platforms to develop and support in the developer community. This sounds reasonable, although the mixed response the Foleo got must have been a factor.
It’s too bad. Certainly the industry pundits, from their commanding heights, were mostly quick to condemn Foleo, but I suspect most industry pundits don’t face the problem of the average worker-bee; namely that corporate America has converted our "personal computers" into terminals on the corporate network, and locked them down completely. They’ve done so for mostly-valid reasons; security and all that.
Do you remember when computers were personal? Did you ever sneak an Apple II (or an early CP/M) machine throught purchasing, or in the back door? Do you remember the feeling of liberation when you discovered what _you_ could do with a computer?
We need to re-invent the _personal_ computer, and I think the smart cell-phone may be the key. High-end smart phones, such as the Palm Treo, contain way more CPU power than even the best laptops of ten years ago. Add a decent-size screen and a real keyboard, along with a lightweight OS, and you have an entirely competent notebook computer for most office (as well as personal) applications.
Prediction: someone else will pick up the concept of Foleo, if not the design, and you will see a product announcement by the end of 2009. The product will be a thin, 1-kg notebook-sized gizmo into which you will dock your PDA/phone and connect, via 802.11 or some form of cellular data.
It will run a light OS - probably Linux - and be able to handle Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, as well as mail and web.
Some engineering details: the CPU inside will be "two-speed" - a lower voltage, lower power speed for handheld use, and a power-up mode when docked. Thermo-electric cooling might be used to keep the CPU cool when docked and running in high-power mode.
The ‘disk’ will be Flash, and the on-time essentially instant. The docking module will have all the usual I/O slots - SD, USB, etc, and maybe some extra archival storage capacity, but mostly it will be a display and keyboard. A bluetooth mouse is included, with a special slot for docking/charging when not in use.
Here’s hoping it works well. I’ll buy one, that’s for sure, just as a vote of confidence.-- Oliver
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