Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Foleo was such a bad idea that…

I said in May and again last month that I thought Palm’s planned Foleo PDA-laptop was a bad idea. Apparently Palm’s CEO now agrees. As CNET reported:

Faced with biting criticism of the Foleo, a Linux-based psuedo-laptop gadget, Palm has decided to cancel the first generation of the device.

Palm CEO Ed Colligan broke the news on Palm's official blog Tuesday after the close of the stock market. Just last week, a financial analyst predicted that Palm would have to delay the Foleo's launch until September or October because of serious software-related bugs, but Colligan decided to kill the entire project instead.

"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 of our energies on delivering out next generation platform and the first smartphones that will bring this platform to market," Colligan wrote. …

Palm unveiled the Foleo at the D: All Things Digital conference in May to widespread skepticism, despite the fact that Palm founder Jeff Hawkins considered it "the best idea I've ever had." The Foleo is basically an underpowered laptop that's designed to give Treo users a break from typing e-mails on a small phone keyboard. However, few could figure out why smart phone users — who ostensibly own a laptop already — would want to buy a separate $499 device that could do little more than send e-mails.
CNET blogger Tom Krazit called it an embarrassing admission of a company that hit “rock bottom.”

Rock bottom implies Palm has no where to go but up — which would be a good sign given how much trouble they’re in. I think the cancellation is a good thing: admitting you’re on the wrong course is very difficult for any firm, executive or individual, but it’s better to do so before you ship than after shipping another Newton (to recall the infamous PDA of a decade ago that also had functionality issues).
[Michael D]

The blog entry also implies that Palm realizes its future depends on saving its smartphone franchise rather than launching a new product category. Hoping for the best, perhaps this suggests that the grownups are now in charge due to the 25% private equity investment in June.

Chairman Jon Rubinstein used to work for the most demanding (if not most disciplined boss) in the valley — so if he’s imposing a new product discipline, that’s exactly what Palm needs if it hopes to reclaim its former glory. The only caveat is that it’s easy for Rubinstein to kill his predecessor’s bad idea, but will he apply the same discipline for ideas developed on his watch?

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Anonymous said...

Of course, a year later we call this "bad idea" the Netbook, a new product category that has sold 14 million units.

Palm was right on.


Joel West said...

While netbooks are booming, I'd hardly say that "Palm was right on."

Most of the netbooks are selling with a standard operating system (XP), while the Foleo was a futile attempt to create a new platform without any realistic hope of third party software.