Could Foleo, Based on Linux, Coupled with Google Gears, Become the Future of the PC?

Rob Enderle

I'm following a series of technologies that are coming to market to displace the aging PC concept. While Bill Gates and Steve Jobs clearly believe the rich PC, as a general use product, represents the best future, I'm no longer so sure. With Apple now being hit with Windows-like attacks and the clear realization that, from a security standpoint, it may be virtually impossible to protect any rich connected desktop client effectively, from an IT perspective, I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't time for a major change.


This isn't about changing from Windows to Apple or Linux. This is about rethinking the entire platform and designing it from the ground up so that the things you want to protect remain in more physically secure locations and nothing remains in the field that can't be instantly deleted or rendered inaccessible.


The Smartphone Model


With the smartphone, in a few weeks, you'll see the launch of a comprehensive security communications product that rivals RIM for ease of use, and is unmatched in terms of security, IT control, personalization, and capability for this class of device. For some time, we've had capabilities on smartphones that exceed what we had 10 years ago on laptop computers in terms of productivity and data access and this gap is closing incredibly fast.


But the issue with a smartphone is that physically it is both too small and too large. It is too small to be a useful computer for document creation, Web browsing or most forms. It is too large to be carried as a phone. This is why many BlackBerry and Treo users also carry smaller cell phones for calls.


But, ask yourself, short of video games, if you can open documents, create and show presentations, manage and create e-mail, search the Web, and even look at pictures and some video and can remain connected, do you truly need a laptop?


Connectivity: Google Gears


The offline part has been a killer problem and Google Apps, which might represent a future for an Office-like application, was crippled by it. However, Apps was recently followed by Gears which, in effect, turns your system into a server and allow Apps to run offline and locally, potentially syncing up to the host once reconnected. Granted, this part isn't cooked yet, but we already have slim applications that run locally on smartphones and, while you may lose some functionality when disconnected, you could continue to write and enjoy content as long as the application itself didn't require a connection.


This problem isn't just being worked on through unique online/offline offerings like Gears or slimmed-down cell phone applications, but through a soon to be released connectivity solution that would allow a device that makes a thin client look fat to seamlessly, with amazingly low bandwidth, connect to a full PC (or PC blade) anyplace in the world. Granted, there remain latency issues and we still have the disconnected problem but this, used in a thin client, could give you full PC power when you do have a connection to a fast enough wired or wireless network.


The Promise of Foleo


You shouldn't look at Foleo as a done product. It isn't. Much like the first Palm Pilot, smartphone, or PC, this is the beginning of what could be a major change. Palm doesn't have all of the parts, many are being created by others, some of whom are Palm partners, and some Palm likely doesn't even know about yet.


As cool as it looks, the Foleo is only the beginning. We are at the forefront of a major change, one that could make obsolete the PC as we know it, make products like the iPhone, as a class, look foolish in hindsight, and could provide us with a level of security, reliability, and portability we have only seen in science fiction.


I'll talk about the parts as the NDAs that now surround me are lifted. Until then, the Foleo is a sign of things to come, and together, those things could create something truly amazing.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 1, 2007 6:09 PM Augur Augur  says:
My experience is that people carry a separate cell phone with their smart phone because they can't use the smart phone for web access or some other critical uses while they are in a phone call. Its more of a physical constraint than anything. Sure they can use a headset but most smartphones aren't very smart when it comes to doing much else while they are acting as a phone.The Foleo doesn't completely solve the simultaneous voice and data problem. For the Foleo to be useful right now you need to be in a wifi-enabled space or not be talking on the phone to use the bluetooth data connection. The next generation Treos may solve the simultaneous voice/data problem but they aren't here yet.The Foleo does look like it could be the device our people have been wanting for a long time, though. It would mostly solve our critical need of being able to access the web while in a phone call without carrying bulky, slow booting laptops. And if paired with a smartphone that has simultaneous voice and data it would completely solve that problem. Reply
Jun 1, 2007 6:26 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Excellent point on being able to do voice and data at the same time, while I may not agree that folks carry two devices for that reason today, I do see how that would immediately become a problem with a device like Foleo which you would be using more aggressively for laptop like functions. Ill flag that as a critical problem for this new technology to address. If you, or your people, start using this device in trial please post your impressions and thanks for writing! Reply
Jun 4, 2007 9:18 AM Jona Jona  says:
If this same product was released in partnership with Google and marketed differently I think the discussion around the Foleo - even if the hardware was identical - would have been very different.Foleo hardware which provided ultra easy access to online/offline web applications and could also syncronise with your cell phone with one touch (no setup) would be fantastic. The syncronisation would have to cover music and photos too - to an online service. Then it could be sold to the millions of people who do not regularly watch movies on their laptop (because they have a tv) or play games (because they have a wii). Palm need to make a statement quickly. They are only 5% away from where they want to be, but the way they are going they will have detstroyed the concept before it even goes live. Reply
Jun 7, 2007 9:42 AM Carmi Carmi  says:
Greetings, Rob. Great to see you making waves in the blogosphere.Although I fear the Foleo will ultimately be misunderstood by the market as yet another in-between product that fails to hit the mainstream sweet spot, I applaud Palm for making the effort, and agree that this could be the beginning of something different.Perhaps the just-announced equity firm investment in Palm will buy the company sufficient time to fully bake the concept. Perhaps by then, the mobile market - whatever that is - will be more open to intermediate form factors that bridge the gap between smartphone and PC.Looking forward to reading more...Carmi Reply
Jun 7, 2007 12:21 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Agreed, I like the idea just don't think it is cooked yet. Also agree that the latest move will give them time to finish, but think the bigger story is the move will result in some vastly better products overally. Palm should be interesting to watch again. Thanks for the welcome! Reply
Jul 12, 2008 7:48 PM James James  says:
I like to read your blog becuase its really good. Thanks for adding my comments. http://www.hardwareforce.com Reply

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