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Old 05-30-2007, 04:52 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Why the Foleo might succeed even though we don't like it

The response in the mobile online community is pretty consistent. Generally, people say they find it intriguing, but they are really disappointed and it's not what they need. My first impression is very similar. I want very much to like it, but it seems more like a limited function toy than something I would really use.

But the more I think about it, the more I think it might succeed. Especially after looking at the Engadget notes on the Hawkins presentation.

Here's why: We tech freaks are missing the whole point. We think that we are early adopters, so we much be the market for a crazy new piece of hardware that comes out from the creator of the Palm Pilot. After all, we are the ones that jumped on a PDA when no one really knew what to do with it.

But this product, while it is a creation generated by the same person, is a whole different ball game. Hawkins is looking for mass market appeal. He wants to appeal to the low-tech businessman and the common guy on the street. As much as it pains us, he is not after the tech freak.

So imagine just the scenario that Hawkins alludes to - everyone carrying around a smartphone. They really don't know how to do anything complicated on it. And they are finally advanced enough that people can sort of do email and look at documents. Plus, everyone wants to browse the web. But it's very complicated and hard on a smartphone. You have all that potential that's being wasted because it's hard on a tiny screen. So how do you open up all that potential to the average businessman or businesswoman, or the average Joe/Suzy on the street? You give them a Foleo!

They don't care about the latest features. They don't care about touchscreen. They don't care how many applications are available. They just want an easy way to do email, office documents, pdfs and web browsing. Remember that, as Michael Mace has pointed out, the zen of Palm is the simple approach to providing solutions. That's exactly what the Foleo does. Simple maintenance for enterprises or families. Simple usage and setup. And the primary activities people want are covered. It's cheap, well-sized and has "decent' battery life. It could be a hit.

You can hate Palm for releasing a product that doesn't meet your high tech needs (and mine), or you can consider how much larger the low tech audience of consumers will be. Just imagine, as everyone has a smartphone in the days to come, and they all wish they had a simple way to use it. What's the answer. Hawkins and Palm are hoping Foleo is the answer.

The only problem is that it's a hard acceptance curve to climb, and convincing the average phone user to get one is tricky. By then, there will be lots of competition. Can Palm make it a success? That's the question of the day.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:04 PM   #2
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I honestly don't see what market he is targeting.

1. The "connected" business person has their Treo and their laptop. If they are traveling light they take the Treo. If they are traveling heavy they take their laptop and their Treo. Why would a "connected" business person take a Foleo? All their Powerpoint and Excel, etc. drafts are contained on the hard drive of their laptop. They need access to previous memos, presentations, etc. that are, again, contained on the laptop. A Foleo can't substitute for 80Gig of background information stored on the laptop - so the Foleo will stay home. If you already have a laptop I can't see a business person leaving it home and risking not having that vital piece of information available that is stored on their hard disk.

2. I don't think a "non-connected" person, one who owns a Treo just for light email and a little web browsing, will have any interest in being tied to a second device, especially one that won't fit in a pocket or purse.

I don't think it's a question of features or applications, I just don't see where it fits in.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:11 PM   #3
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Those are some great points, Paul.

But I think you are still thinking of a more sophisticated user than the audience. Think business person that hates their laptop and just wants to do email or look at a presentation that was sent by email. Think of grandma who wants to keep in touch with her grandson on the trip.

Then making a quantum leap forward, think of a sales force that a company wants to equip their low-tech salesmen cheaply with a 3rd-party sales force automation package, but they want low maintenance and they have to supply them with smartphones anyway. It also has to look simple, because they hate the problems and bulk of a "real laptop". Is there a better and simpler solution right now? I don't think so. Not yet.

But if you want it to "do more" (like I do) it will be very disappointing to you. My point is that anyone that wants to "do more" is not the target market. I'm speculating, but it sure looks that way to me.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:20 PM   #4
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I see what you're getting at, Bob. I think of my Parents & in-laws, and a number of my co-workers for that matter, who can more or less use a computer, but get stumped really quick if they wander outside of the basics like word-processing & e-mail. They'd be totally adrift with a smartphone, to the point of having trouble using the phone part in the midst of all that 'technical' stuff.

Something like the Foleo very well might just bring, say, a Trēo into the realm of graspable to them. I guess it's no wonder that I don't see a use to me personally for products that aren't aimed at me. As an apartment dweller, I don't have much current use for a lawn-mower either, but that doesn't mean that mowers are inherently useless to everyone.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
It's cheap, well-sized and has "decent' battery life. It could be a hit.
It's not cheap ($500 - with a discount is not cheap).
It's not well-sized. It's far too large to be a PDA and too small to be a laptop.
It's battery life is unacceptable for a PDA and only slightly better than a full laptop.

I agree with paulkbiba: I don't see a market for this thing.

For the price, you can get a very small laptop, run Linux on it and get same thing - plus more functionality.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:33 PM   #6
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Really, do you think the mass market has been waiting for a device like the Foleo? No, I don't think so. The mass market follows general industry trends, and the trend is to minimize the amount of devices you have to carry around while keeping all core functionalities (e-mail, word processor, phone). Most smartphones today, like the Treo or the Blackberry or various Nokia phones, are capable of doing this.

If you want a keyboard, get a notebook. It is just as cumbersome to carry around as any other device that is considerably bigger than a smartphone.

From TheStreet's Priya Ganapati:

Quote:
Foleo is simply too limited in its use: It doesn't have a hard drive, runs the Linux operating system and falls into an in-between space, being larger than a phone and smaller than a laptop. The device basically just adds to the gadget clutter that users want to free themselves from, say analysts.

"I think this is going to be a massive failure," says Todd Kort, principal analyst with research firm Gartner. "The device is simply too big, too heavy to be carried around, and I think there are going to be better phones and laptops that will fill the need in a more sophisticated way."

...

Foleo now seems like a sign of the company's desperation.
Link
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:50 PM   #7
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Until last year, I was a most fervent supporter of my Axim PDA. I used it for reading e-books, for watching movies, and for doing my contacts. Today, dust is settling on it. I haven't switched it on in months (battery is probably all dead by now); books I read on a dedicated device now, movies I watch on a 16:9 screen notebook (I bought an extra huge secondary battery for long trips), and contacts I manage through my smartphone. The point is, I minimize the amount of devices I need to take care of, and I find the combination smartphone+notebook+dedicated device most suitable for most roadwarriors.

Yes, I am an early adopter, but even my girlfriend's sister has a smartphone that's better than mine, and she can do more office work with it than I can do. She also has a Macbook. She is mainstream, and she follows industry trends. I don't think she'll buy the Foleo.
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Old 05-30-2007, 05:59 PM   #8
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Hmmm... Small, Linux, nice screen.... Where have I heard this before? Yes! I remember now. I have a Zaurus SL-C760. So...

Palm Folio
10-inch screen and full-size keyboard
Instant-On.
email
Surf web
5 hours of battery life
Runs Linux
Wi-Fi

Zaurus SL-C760
Only 4" screen and tiny keyboard (but fits in my pocket).
Instant-On.
Do email
Surf web
5 hours of battery life (with the new, larger battery)
Runs Linux
Wi-Fi

The C760 was never sold in the U.S. because Sharp didn't think it would sell.
The Zaurus was killed off last year by Sharp because of poor sales.

From my experience with my C760, I found that it completely failed as a PDA and failed as a laptop. I still keep it around for when I don't feel like getting up from my Lay-Z-Boy chair to ssh into the DVR, but it certainly doesn't get daily use.

So why would Palm think that the Folio would sell when other clam-shell devices failed?
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Old 05-30-2007, 06:14 PM   #9
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I think they may be aiming for the trend of the "lowest common denominator." The least saturated demographic for tech toys is the folks who are scared of technology. Providing a relatively straightforward, non-scary device, might just get some of them to try it. Consider, that's exactly what the Sony Reader has aimed to do: make a reading device that's both good enough to use, and simple and straightforward enough that non-techies will give it a try.

The approach seems to be working fairly well for the Reader, it may be too soon to really tell.

I'm not making any evaluation of how well the Foleo might fill that aim, only observing/suggesting that that particular goal might be what they are trying to achieve.
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Old 05-30-2007, 06:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
I'm not making any evaluation of how well the Foleo might fill that aim, only observing/suggesting that that particular goal might be what they are trying to achieve.
That's very important to note that if they want to reach that mass market, they need to make it simple. The smartphone part is NOT simple right now, and I bet the Foleo is not trivial either. They might have to depend on corporate rollouts in the beginning.

I'm thinking that Palm must have some large companies planning to use it with field deployments to save cost. They already have to get smartphones, so why not do this instead of laptops or tablets. Cheaper to buy and administer, and they can write their own apps for it. If Palm has that corporate commitment, it woud sure explain their enthusiasm despite a less than obvious consumer market.
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Old 05-30-2007, 10:44 PM   #11
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Based on everything else I've read, I think the right 3rd party app could make the Folio a very popular device. My vote for "most likely to push Folio over the top" would be: Built-in connectivity.

Yes, ditch the phone, you don't need it. No one likes the hassle of connecting a phone to their device as a modem, anyway. If cellphone companies, for instance, sold a plug-in cell modem for it, easily set up at the store just for you, it would be perfect for the casual users, the Grandmas, the vacationers, the kids in the back of the car.
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Old 05-31-2007, 04:42 AM   #12
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A prediction ;-)

I have seldom posted on this board, but read frequently. But reading this thread, I've just got to comment.

With a condition, I predict that by this time next year, a very good percentage of Mobileread members will have one of these, and be loving them. My prediction is predicated, however, upon Palm fixing the miserable battery life of this device--I mean, 5 hours? That's hardly any better than my Apple Powerbook got when new! My Newton still gets a couple weeks of use on an ancient battery! So, if this detail gets fixed, I suspect that a lot of us "techies" will be using the Foleo and loving it.

Why is that? I think that many of us are thinking inside the box at the present moment. We were expecting something either more revolutionary (whatever that means) or more "advanced." So, immediately, its utility is overlooked.

Here is my take on this device. I have a Palm Tungsten. It has the same screen size and resolution as a Treo--320x320 pixels. Sorry, but that is a _tiny_ window on the world. Every app I can, I've reduced the font size to miniscule, just to get a bigger "window" on my information. I have a full-size keyboard, but find myself seldom using it, simply because my "window" is too small. I've been wishing for something maybe like this for a long time.

Here's how I suggest we look at this device. Our mobile phone is our "main" computer, and the Foleo is merely a larger window to that device. When you are out and about, you have the tiny screen, and the appropriate interface for interacting with that information on the tiny screen--extremely portable and optimized for the tiny device, but when you can, you have the Foleo, with tools more appropriate to a desk environment. Your data still resides on that tiny device slung from your hip, or in your pocket or briefcase, but you access it via this larger window.

As it is now, yes, I could "sync" my Palm with my laptop, but the two are really less compatible than one would hope, and it's so much effort to use the Palm for things like spreadsheets, etc. that I just don't bother. This is, in large part, due to the fact that the Palm is the satellite and the computer the hub. The Foleo turns this upside down. The phone is the hub, and the "computer" the satellite! _That_ is what I've been looking for!

And I suspect that many more people will begin to see things this way.

All we need now, is a way to bring this (I hate the next word) paradigm to the desktop/laptop! Or maybe find a way to eliminate either or both. That's what I'm waiting for. :-)

-Jon
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Old 05-31-2007, 05:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon
It's not cheap ($500 - with a discount is not cheap).
It's not well-sized. It's far too large to be a PDA and too small to be a laptop.
It's battery life is unacceptable for a PDA and only slightly better than a full laptop.

I agree with paulkbiba: I don't see a market for this thing.

For the price, you can get a very small laptop, run Linux on it and get same thing - plus more functionality.
and it's not especially light, either - 2.4lbs!
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Old 05-31-2007, 05:15 AM   #14
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Quote:
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This is, in large part, due to the fact that the Palm is the satellite and the computer the hub. The Foleo turns this upside down. The phone is the hub, and the "computer" the satellite! _That_ is what I've been looking for!
Been there. Done that. Doesn't work.

The problem is that you constantly run into the limitations of the satellite computer. You constantly want it to do more and you run into the necessary limitations of the system. So after a period of frustration after running into those limitations, you get a laptop.

For a while, I had a Sharp Actius MM20. A very small, lightweight laptop. The only spinning media in it was a hard drive. It came with a docking station that let you mount the MM20's hard drive to your main computer. It took me all of 15 minutes to create a synchronization system with my main box.

So, I would put the laptop into the docking station, run the sync script, pull the laptop out and go. When I got back, I just ran the sync again and all the updates were on my main system. It worked great.

But it was small (which is what I wanted in a satellite system). It was battery friendly (I got about 6 hours with the extended battery). But I constantly ran into its limitations. As a "surf the web, do eMail" system is worked great. But it wasn't enough.

For $300 more, I bought a full featured laptop and I have gotten much more use out of it.

As a laptop replacement the Folio fails.
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Old 05-31-2007, 07:34 AM   #15
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No, I think Jon's right. What he's describing is essentially what I was doing with my Psion/EPOC Mako, a larger-than-standard-screened PDA with a keyboard. Obviously, it wasn't a laptop, but I didn't always need a full laptop with me, and the Mako filled the gap between laptop (all the tools) and phone (basic utility) nicely. If I could've connected it wirelessly, I would've been doing e-mail on it, to go with all the other functions it accomplished for me (mostly writing and PIM).

And if it hadn't eventually broken down, I'd still be using it.
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