• 05/31/2007
    5:34 PM
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What the Heck is a 'Mobile Companion' Anyway

Network Computing's technology editors love shiny new gadgets. The Foleo -- Palm's new "mobile companion" created instant discussion among their ranks on the system's usability, use cases -- and future. Follow their debate and then let us know what you...

Sean Ginevan: I sat here trying to come to Palm's defense on this one and I came up with a few use cases in their factor:

Many people already carry a smartphone for e-mail and data connectivity. However the main thing people do with smartphones is e-mail which is great until you have a two-hour lull in between meetings or are waiting in an airport. Think of a show like Interop. The first couple of days I lugged around my laptop because I wanted to be able to be a little productive when I wasn't doing meetings and whatnot. Could I have been as productive using either the T-Mobile Dash or Wing that I brought with me (both include QWERTY keyboards and Windows Mobile 6)? Sure. But typing on the somewhat cramped keyboard of a PDA for a protracted period of time gets old. The screen is small and it's really only useful for occasional e-mail (ie, triaging your e-mail box). Trying to really catch up on e-mail is tedious.

Could I have used my laptop to accomplish the same goal (edit the occasional document, view a press release and send/receive e-mail)? Absolutely. However my medium weight IBM T43 is somewhat heavy and was a pain to carry around the show floor by the end of the day. I didn't need the full horsepower of my laptop in most cases (let's ignore the times I was setting up Exchange using Remote Desktop). I could switch to a UMPC, but honestly I like the larger, high resolution screen and keyboard of a true laptop for every day use. Plus, UMPCs are pricey.

Palm doesn't need to have the Foleo run versions of Good or Intellisync or Direct Push for e-mail. That's what the smartphone is for. Presumably, Palm has a Bluetooth synchronization program to keep your smartphone synced with the Foleo and visa versa. If, for $500, I can get a lightweight device that acts as somewhat of an extension of my PDA, it might be useful to me. I can definitely think of times where I'd pop open the Foleo (which is supposedly "Instant On" meaning I can sit down and get right to work without waiting for my T43 to boot up) and check up on e-mail and read a press release or two. Because while I couldn't switch to a Foleo (or Linux, probably) as my every day PC because I use too many Windows apps, I don't use those apps every day and sure as heck not during small bits of downtime during business trips.

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