Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pull the plug on Palm?

A week ago I said Palm is facing a life-or-death innovation challenge. Today, at the WSJ D5 conference, Jeff Hawkins unveiled “a new category of mobile device.”

And what is it? The Foleo. A low end laptop, reminiscent of the Apple eMate. The eMate was based on the Newton OS (rather than a full-featured laptop OS), but here the Foleo is based on Linux.

The plan is that the computer be a smartphone companion. Some phone makers (NB: Nokia) might say a really smart phone needs no companion. Other smart phone users have a two pound Japanese subnotebook, or an ultracompact Windows laptop like the one pound OQO. Me, I just make do with a regular laptop, and it’s hard to imagine many Treo owners who don’t already own a laptop.

The computer is underpowered and doesn’t do much on its own (other than surf the web over WiFi). It has no software yet, and I can’t see any developers taking it seriously. CNET sums up what must be the widespread reaction:

“I think it's probably the most disappointing product I've seen in several years,” said Todd Kort, an analyst with Gartner. “To think that anyone would carry something with a 10-inch display at 2.5 pounds as an adjunct to a phone just doesn't make any sense to me.”
Today, Palm stock is down only 1.6%; the stock has spent May under $17, down from the 52-week high of $19.50, and the $24 price of 13 months ago. The bread-and-butter of the company is the Treo line, and if they don’t do something to catch up with RIM (or Motorola or Nokia or Samsung) soon, it’s toast.

If this is the bet-the-company breakthrough innovation, I say pull the plug. When you check out of a hotel, they close your folio, so I guess the new product name is (unintentionally) apt.

Technorati Tags:

No comments: