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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 30, 2007 at 3:32 PM

Palm founder’s Foleo: Don’t call it a laptop

One of the new gadgets introduced at the D conference is the Foleo, a little laptop like device from Palm that you’re not supposed to call a laptop.

It’s a mobile companion, Palm founder Jeff Hawkins insisted as he unveiled the gadget on stage with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

The columnists noted that the thing looked like a laptop and felt like a laptop, but Hawkins was adamant.

Palm

The Foleo is designed to be a “mobile companion” to smartphones such as the Treo.

The 2-pound device has a laptop-like clamshell design with a 10.2” diagonal screen and a full-size keyboard. It runs on Linux and solid-state memory, with no hard-drive or optical drive.

It’s designed to be an accessory to smartphones, which sync with the device so you can do e-mail and other computing on the Foleo and bring it instead of a laptop on the road. The phone then acts like a modem for the Foleo.

Mossberg and Swisher seemed a little skeptical after Hawkins said it’s not powerful enough to do a good job playing video from the Web.

It goes on sale in June for $599, but Palm will offer a $100 rebate so it’s basically $499.

If Microsoft and computer makers can get Ultra-Mobile PCs down to $600 it won’t stand a chance.

The Foleo does have a cool interface, though. Instead of a mousepad below the keyboard it has a scroll wheel, like a smartphone, and dedicated forward and back buttons for browsing and moving through screens.

I thought they were a little awkward and didn’t feel natural when I played with the device, but I’d love to have a built-in scroll wheel and forward and backward keys on my laptop.

Another really cool feature of the Foleo was its power management. The thing runs 5 hours with Wi-Fi on or 6.5 with it off. It also turns on instantly with a button that gives you two choices — on or off, with no option to hibernate or restart.

Comments | More in | Topics: D conference, Gadgets & products

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