Foleo Isn't Much of a Foil

That's it? Really? Really?!?

Sadly, that was my reaction when Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) yesterday introduced the Foleo, a laptop lookalike that runs Linux but lacks a hard drive and, if the press release is to be believed, is built primarily to handle email.

Palm, however, calls it a "smartphone companion." Um, aren't smartphones supposed to be smart so that they don't need a companion? (Sigh.)

Color me disappointed. And, honestly, a little bit sad. I'm a huge fan of Foleo designer Jeff Hawkins. As creator of both the original PalmPilot and the Treo, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer in the world of tech, no matter what happens with his latest creation.

Yet he'll reap criticism anyway. That stinks. My apologies for piling on, Jeff.

But, alas, I must. Prerelease hype for the Foleo, which began as far back as November, suggested something so groundbreaking that it would at least challenge Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone and put to shame anything now available from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , or Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) .

On that basis, the Foleo is very likely to be a disappointment.

Consider its features. The device can synchronize via Bluetooth, turn on and off instantly, and -- oh, yeah -- did I mention wireless email? Really, it's just a small laptop that's going to sell for $499 until a limited-time $100 rebate expires.

Having said all that, there is one scenario in which the Foleo could make Palm look brilliant. Assuming Hawkins is right, and users want the form and function of a laptop but in a smaller, smartphone-friendly package, the Linux-based Foleo, which is capable of synchronizing with most devices, could attract customers who've never before purchased a Palm product.

But that's probably a long shot. Even gadget geeks like me have limited budgets, and there's already too much competition for our attention.

With Foleo, the competition will be intense -- first from smartphone makers and then from laptop makers such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , who'll take it seriously enough to mock it as its designers plot to destroy it. You know what they'll say, too:

"That's it? Really? Really?!?"

Yep, really. (Sigh.)

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 4,160 out of more than 29,500 rated players in CAPS, still owns a Treo 600. He's planning to beat it up till it dies. Tim owned shares of Nokia at the time of publication. Tim's portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on Foolishness and investing may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy wonders whether there will be a folio for the Foleo. No? Why so ... Leo? (Just checking to make sure you're still there.)


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