Foleo Dies An Untimely Death. Time To Celebrate Or Not?

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(Last edited Sept 5, 2007)

A quick BIG THANKS to Duke Carico of Duke’s Blog for the recent mention on his site Apparently, he read my (oh, there she goes again) editorial in reaction to Engadget’s article and decided to reflect his thoughts on the subject. Apparently, he wrote a similar editorial back in early August voicing his frustration (like many other Treo and Palm users) about what he thought. You can read about it here


Here’s an interesting public address to Mr. Ed Colligan from Motley Fool contributor, Tim Beyers Dear Mr. Colligan…. Considering how the last public address or open letter got an almost immediate reaction, I wonder if Motley Fool can pull a similar stunt? Hmmm.

(*FLASH*)

In a shocking and surprising move, Ed Colligan, the CEO of Palm Inc has sent an email to developers and the Palm community announcing the immediate discontinuation or cancellation of the Foleo mobile companion device. Here is a copy of the contents of the email:

As many of you are aware, we are in the process of building our next generation software platform. We are very excited about how this is coming together. It has a modern, flexible UI, instant performance, and an incredibly simple and elegant development environment. We are working hard on this platform and on the first smartphones that will take advantage of it.

In the course of the past several months, it has become clear that the right path for Palm is to offer a single, consistent user experience around this new platform design and a single focus for our platform development efforts. To that end, and after careful deliberation, I have decided to cancel the Foleo mobile companion product in its current configuration and focus all our energies on delivering our next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market. We will, of course, continue to deliver products in partnership with Microsoft on the Windows Mobile platform, but from our internal platform development perspective, we will focus on only one.

Because we were nearly at the point of shipping Foleo, this was a very tough decision. Yet I am convinced this is the right thing to do. Foleo is based on a second platform and a separate development environment, and we need to focus our efforts on one platform. Our own evaluation and early market feedback were telling us that we still have a number of improvements to make Foleo a world-class product, and we can not afford to make those improvements on a platform that is not central to our core focus. That would not be right for our customers or for our developer community.

Jeff Hawkins and I still believe that the market category defined by Foleo has enormous potential. When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category. We’re not going to speculate now on timing for a next Foleo, we just know we need to get our core platform and smartphones done first.

I would like to thank our customers for their interest in Foleo. I know there will be disappointed folks who were looking forward to carrying a Foleo for all their mobile computing needs. I am certainly one of them. I would also like to thank the developers who have supported our Foleo efforts. They have been loyal to Palm and have worked hard to deliver some compelling solutions on the Foleo platform. I know that they will understand that the right thing to do for the long run is to focus on one platform that will live for years, rather than invest energy in a one-off solution. We will make every effort to make sure we bring our developers forward to our next generation platform.

This decision will require us to take a limited charge of less than $10 million dollars to our earnings. This is a lot of money, but it is a small price relative to the costs that would be required to support two platforms going forward. This decision is in the best interest of our customers, our team, our products and our shareholders. I hope this renewed focus at Palm will allow us to deliver more compelling solutions to our core smartphone market, and it will allow us to position ourselves for the long run around one Palm experience.

Ed Colligan

President & CEO
Palm, Inc.

You can read the official blog entry at the Palm blog here.

What sparked this decision? Obviously, the Engadget article had a HUGE impact. As did many of the Palm community reaction via personal blogs and gadget sites and even mainstream media sites. This was something that was spilling over and Ed couldn’t seriously contain it anymore and had to do something. Amazing how one big gadget site can do so much, eh? I am still finding new blog posts all over about the reaction to Engadget’s editorial. Actually, it’s nice because I’m discovering sites and blogs I didn’t even know existed. So, thank you, Engadget. Anyway, back to topic.

Hopefully, I am not going to re-hash all the stuff I’ve said many times in my numerous editorials. You can find the original four part series of Dawn of a New Palm or Its Setting? I wrote at the beginning of the year. You should find more similar editorials in the Related Posts found on the right sidebar. I am getting tired of ranting since it’s frustrating to be a Palm fan but yet watch the company sink further into the abyss.

As for my reaction, I am still not sure. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. Had Palm not wasted so much energy, time, effort of their team as well as that of the third party developers and programmers, things probably would have been better. Maybe they could have focused their energy on improving the devices and enhancing and innovating like they used to and obviously history would have been quite different.

I have stressed time and time again that the LifeDrive had a lot of promise and for them to have abandoned it so soon without tweaking the microdrive and replacing it with a Compact Flash as many Palm enthusiasts have done, the LifeDrive would have been the coolest connected device that could have rivaled many competitors. Think of the Wi-Fi, the nice screen and everything else. The main problem was the lag and that obviously has been fixed or dealt with by the Compact Flash.

I feel sorry for all the developers that got screwed in the process. They spent all this time and energy developing it only to find that it’s been pulled so suddenly. Now, although I am glad that Palm has pulled the Foleo now, instead of much later in the production, when it would have been so much more costly in many ways. But, I can’t help but wonder, were they so completely brain dead to not know that it was a mistake? This thing has been brewing for so long. They announced it in May and got very little reception, even if a bit lukewarm from the media the PDA community. Wouldn’t that be something to raise a bit of doubt? I have already said that if Palm had to waste so much time and energy to “explain” that the Foleo is NOT a laptop or anything similar that they are just wasting their time? Remember what I said before? Perception is key. Regardless of how you “believe” in something. If you aren’t perceived in a similar light, you’re not going to persuade anyone. If people perceive the Foleo to be a dumb laptop, it will be an uphill battle to convince it’s not. Maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe as Ed has mentioned, Foleo II will come in the future. Who knows?

All I can say is that regardless of this announcement, I am still not very satisfied with what has happened so far. The past few years have been filled with needless distractions that wasted time and money: Palm split up into PalmOne and PalmSource, Palm gets back together, Palm buys Palm OS back from Access, etc. These have proven that the management knows how to do anything BUT manage and innovate, something that Palm *should* have been doing all along, instead of being caught up in all this mess.

Of course, in regards to the Foleo, all the hype and marketing that was spent in the past months and even going so far as to “confirm” that the Foleo will be out before the end of summer, and then pull it so suddenly, how can we really trust what is being said? As history has shown me, talk is cheap and we’ve got plenty of talk so far. What I’ve seen is that Palm can be very quick to pull stuff off the production line (ie. LifeDrive, Treo 700p MR, Foleo). What we need here is leadership and a clear sense of focus and direction.

Is this a sign that Palm is really taking off their rose-colored glasses and taking a good look at the PDA world? I can’t speak for them and since history has so far been very disappointing, and I am not jumping for joy just yet. I am however, a little bit more optimistic that maybe they may get back up again. Who knows? You’ve heard of revivals being better than the original. Maybe Palm may start to go back to what they have found has promise (like the LifeDrive for example) or continue to enhance and focus back on the standalone PDAs. Gosh, wouldn’t that be interesting! I can see all the old Palm loyalists that have gone to Blackberrys, Windows Mobile and whatever else come flooding back!

My suggestion to Palm’s designers: live a little and start playing around with the form factor and see what you can come up with. Look at what made Sony Clies so sought after, even years after they’ve stopped production. There is obviously something special in their form factor that appeals. Inject some life into the standalone PDAs. You may think that no one wants to buy them but I still find lots of people at the Palm forums hoping that there’s a new one coming out. Make them clamshell. Add dual card slots. Add GPS. Doesn’t matter. Do something rather than be stuck on the same form factor that I and others have mentioned already in our editorials. We want something exciting and new, not something that looks like a decade ago. With the Linux OS, there’s tons of stuff that can be done on the Palm PDA. It an entirely new world. Think of viewing things in the eyes of a child, with the same enthusiasm and fresh thinking and perspective and I can bet that good things will come out of it. Bring in some fresh blood in all aspects: management, developers, marketers, etc. Being stuck in the rut for too long is never good for a company.

I do admit that *if* Palm is really serious about and planning big things and concentrating on enhancing the user experience, I may hold off on getting a Windows Mobile device like the HTC Advantage or any HTC device for that matter. For me, my main gripe is that the Palm OS is so old and can’t do much beyond the simple PIM apps. I need more RAM (dump that horrible NVFS and never re-visit it again since it’s a pandora’s box that doesn’t really solve much but brings so much more problems) to run things and I am thinking of trying to hack the ROM (yes, I’m desperate to squeeze some more life out of my Treo). I want something that can connect via Wi-Fi and I mean at least 802.11g, plus all the accessories and support that Windows Mobile now have, which is a far cry from years earlier when there were so many developers, manufacturers that created stuff to support the Palm devices.

Palm needs to innovate and bring everyone back into the fold. At one time, there were so many guys supporting Palm whether it be bloggers or journalists covering the Palm device, to software developers writing third party applications that enhance the Palm, to third party manufacturers that created accessories. Good god. Back in those days, practically everyone was supporting the Palm device. And look at it now, and hardly anyone writes anything to support the Palm, which is a very sad state. But to make things worse, the Windows Mobile is supported by practically every software and hardware company out there. Needless to say, I *had* to be tempted to the competition. But, if things are going to change, maybe I’ll stick around for just a little longer. But, I won’t be waiting forever. We have heard similar statements before, so although I’m hopeful, I am not a fool.

Again, the Palm fan in me is hopeful that maybe things are turning around. We can always be optimistic, can’t we? Let’s hope this is *the* light at the end of the very long tunnel. If this is another sad joke being played out, it will be the last straw for me.


NEW Treo 755p

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2 Responses to Foleo Dies An Untimely Death. Time To Celebrate Or Not?

  1. felix says:

    Very nice. It’s an interesting point you make that I completely forgot about – that Palm so recently confirmed the release date of the Foleo. It just shows that this really was a last minute decision, it seems like the sort of decision that, you know, shouldn’t be quite so seat of the pants.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Felix. I’m so glad you’ve found my blog because I probably would not have starting reading your stuff. I have now added you to my blogroll. Thanks for all the links and input!

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