Palm ignores history, forges ahead.

by alec on May 30, 2007

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I've long been a fan of clamshell design mobile companions.  They start quickly, they're ultralight, and their batteries way outlast laptops.  Does anyone remember the NEC Mobilepro line?  How about the Sharp Mobilon Pro?  The Vadem Clio? Don't worry.  Nobody will hold it against you if you can't remember them… it's been nearly 10 years since these products were on the market, although you can still pick up a ready (if dwindling) supply of used ones on EBay.

They were all what we in the Windows CE group at the time dubbed HPCs, or Handheld PCs.  Running Windows CE, with solid state memory, they were designed as companions for a desktop.  And they were superb!  They were also abandoned like a hot rock by the industry when a runaway hit called Palm entered the market and showed everyone that a pocketable tablet with basic handwriting recognition (the PDA, as we call it today) was the wave of the future.

That's why there's more than a little irony in Palm's announcement of the Foleo today.  The Foleo is a 2.5 lb clamshell, with a five hour battery life, that does email and web, and is married to a Treo, as opposed to a PC.  In fact, it appears that the only connectivity option the Foleo has is a Treo. 

Without commenting on the Foleo specifically, because I haven't seen it yet, I'm a huge proponent of this class of device. But a breakthrough device?  The future of the company? As the old saying goes, "Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it".

For Palm's sake, let's hope that's not the case.

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