By Harry McCracken | Friday, May 1, 2009 at 1:56 pm
I was one of the few tech journalists who didn’t mock Palm’s Foleo device when founder Jeff Hawkins unveiled it at D two years ago–see my fuzzy photo to the left–and who chose not to tapdance on its grave when Palm decided not to release it after all. (Um, actually I may have been the only pundit who treated the Foleo, which was a sort of browser-in-a-subnotebook-that-talked-to-your-wireless-phone, with a shred of respect.)
So I like today’s rumor that the Foleo was not dead, but just resting: Analyst Trip Chowdry says that Palm has some iPod veterans working on a new version. If he’s correct, I don’t expect the blogosphere to formally retract all the nasty things it said in 2007. But it’s undeniable that the notion of a cheap, small computer that’s designed mostly to run Web apps rather than client software is no longer deserving of contempt: We now know the concept as the netbook, and it seems to be doing just fine in the market.
In other words, Jeff Hawkins wasn’t dumb, he was just ahead of his time–something which anybody who’s followed Hawkins’ career should have been able to figure out in the first place.
There’s actually every reason to think that Palm is indeed working on a new Foleo–because when CEO Ed Colligan killed the first one, he said it would be back, and it would be based on the platform which we now know is called WebOS:
Jeff Hawkins and I still believe that the market category defined by Foleo has enormous potential. When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category. We’re not going to speculate now on timing for a next Foleo, we just know we need to get our core platform and smartphones done first.
Which doesn’t mean that I’m assuming Chowdry is right. He’s the same guy who said he believed that Costco would be selling $149 iPhones last January, and who saw Google losing its technical edge to search startup Powerset a couple of years ago. But in this case, I’m guessing that Chowdry, like Hawkins, has the right instincts–and the only question is whether he got the timing right,