Smartphone gets companion product
Carlsbad, Calif.-based Palm Inc. (www.palm.com) introduced the Foleo — a miniaturized laptop billed as the first companion product for the smartphone market.
For those road warriors who would rather leave their laptop behind, Foleo offers a 10-inch screen and full keyboard. It connects to the smartphone wirelessly, either through the built-in Wi-Fi radio or via Bluetooth technology. This lets the two devices synchronize data: Edits made on Foleo automatically appear on the smartphone and vice versa, said Jim Christensen, the company’s director of product communications. Users can create Microsoft Word and Excel documents, view PDFs and PowerPoint presentations, and edit attachments on Foleo. They also can use e-mail, and the changes will be reflected on the PDA.
“The combination makes Foleo very capable in mobile settings,” Christensen said.
Mobile workers are the targeted audience for the new product, Christensen said. Many mobile workers are increasingly dependent on their smartphones to remain connected, but they still need a full screen and keyboard for certain tasks. However, they often prefer to leave their laptops at their desks when returning home from the work day, while in meetings or on brief business trips.
“[Foleo] solves a real need beginning to exist in the worldwide marketplace and has the ability to change the way that people think about mobile computing,” Christensen said
Indeed, smartphones “unfortunately don’t offer the full Internet experience,” which is why companion products like Foleo are hitting the market, said Benjamin Gray, an analyst with Forrester Research. Device manufacturers, such as Asus, Vulcan, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, are riding this trend to establish another market, called ultra mobile PCs or UMPCs, he said.
“This is a relatively new market and businesses are showing a willingness to explore alternative form factors,” Gray said. “But it will take time for these solutions to mature and for price points to come down.”
Gray believes top smartphone manufacturers — including Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Research In Motion, Samsung and Sony Ericsson — are consistently and rapidly pushing the market forward with innovative products.
“It’s an exciting market to cover because it seems like every month, there’s a new model that consumers and businesses alike are interested in,” he said. “In terms of smartphone technology trends, voice over IP and embedded GPS will offer a significant shift in the usage models, particularly within businesses that have already rolled out wireless infrastructure and are looking to lower their spending on mobile voice and data access.”
Palm currently is working on certifying Microsoft Windows Mobile products so that they are compatible with Foleo. Currently, the device can work with almost any other smartphone or mobile device because it operates on an open platform, Christensen said, adding that a software development kit is available to engineers wishing to create device- or platform-specific applications.
“Foleo is a platform for which many applications could be developed,” he said. “We expect to see additional e-mail applications, multimedia and Web-based applications, as well as more productivity applications.”