Palm today unveiled a smartphone companion, which gives business users what they have wanted for some time: a large, 10 inch screen and full-size keyboard so that they can access, create and edit documents and e-mails as easily on the move as they would do in the office, without the constraints of squinting at a small screen or grappling with keys better-suited to child-sized fingers.
Interestingly, Palm has left the door open to capitalise on a new market with this offering - dubbed the Palm Foleo - as, in addition to being used as a smartphone companion, the product has the potential to work as a standalone Linux-based computer, with the ability for developers to easily create new applications to run on the device.
It will be available in the UK and rest of Europe later this year, following a summer launch in the US.
The Foleo connects to a user's smartphone using Bluetooth technology - or to the net using Wi-Fi - and, once paired, stays synchronised with the parent device either all day long or at the touch of a button, depending on user requirements.
With a battery with up to five hours' lifetime, the companion also includes a full-screen web browser, e-mail application and editor/viewer options for common business documents like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDFs.
Other features of the Foleo, which weighs just 2.5 pounds, include a USB port, video-out port, headphone jack, and SD and compact flash slots.
"Foleo is the most exciting product I have ever worked on," said Jeff Hawkins, Palm's founder and the man behind the company's latest innovation.
"Smartphones will be the most prevalent personal computers on the planet, ultimately able to do everything that desktop computers can do. However, there are times when people need a large screen and full-size keyboard. As smartphones get smaller, this need increases. The Foleo completes the picture, creating a mobile-computing system that sets a new standard in simplicity."
Naturally, the Foleo is designed to work with Palm Treo smartphones, but the company also believes that it will be compatible with other Windows Mobile smartphones with little or no modification required.
Users of other devices, such as those from Apple, Research in Motion (RIM) and Symbian, can also be assured that the Foleo will support their devices with 'modest' software development, according to Palm.
"As we did with the PalmPilot more than a decade ago, and more recently with the Treo smartphone, Palm is driving innovation and capitalizing on emerging opportunities in mobile computing, a market full of potential," said Ed Colligan, Palm's president and chief executive
"The Palm Foleo represents our first product in a new line of solutions that will redefine how people work while away from their desks. It starts today with a focus on wireless email, and we expect the Foleo to grow in features and expand its capabilities as the platform grows."
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Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.
Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.