Palm today announced the [Foleo](http://www.palm.com/us/products/mobilecompanion/foleo/), possibly the most awkwardly positioned tech product I’ve ever seen. Billed as the “world’s first mobile companion” – which translates to “costs as much as a smartphone but useless without one” – the Foleo is a 10″ sub-laptop that “helps you do more on the go”.
To find this product useful, you seemingly need to meet all of the following criteria:
* Have a smartphone, but be the sort of person who thinks the screen is too small to be really useful.
* Feel like you aren’t carrying enough devices in a day, so much so that a 10″ mini laptop will make you feel like a more complete person.
* Believe that Palm has enough direction to make a device like this work.
* Have $600 to burn – although there’s a $100 mail-in rebate as an “introductory offer”.
They’re advertising the Foleo on three primary aspects: email, attachments, and web. Again, we’re talking $600 for a device that just does those three things.
The marketing text is completely baffling as well. It’s hard to pick just one section that irks me, but:
> It connects wirelessly with your device to let you read and write longer emails and view attachments with ease. Think of it as the big screen and keyboard your smartphone has always wanted.
$600 for the ability to read and write longer emails. $600 to look at attachments. $600 for a big screen and keyboard. $600 for a crippled sub-notebook with 5 hours of battery life.
Palm is in a desperate fight to stay alive at this point. Palm OS has languished horribly, so much so that when I got my Treo at work last year, the only significant different from the Palm V I had back in 2000 was that the Treo had a color display. Worse, the company doesn’t seem to have anyone focused on application design – the Sidekick thrashes it up and down the street for usability. If a company can’t innovate within their own product line in over 6 years, I can’t find any enthusiasm as they try and invent a new class of devices.
If nothing else, Palm has made the iPhone look like a steal.
Jonathan Greene [has more on why this is a bad idea](http://www.atmasphere.net/wp/archives/2007/05/30/palm-foleo-will-be-a-serious-miss).
UPDATE: [NY1’s Tech Beat piece](http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=101&aid=70214) this morning (Thursday) is on the Foleo; a reporter from CNET really nails it:
“When you do a companion device you start to point out deficiencies in your current device and I think that’s a problem for Palm,” says David Carnoy of CNET.com.