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Palm Unveils A PDA-Phone ‘Companion’

Carlsbad, Calif. – Palm launched a small laptop-like device with large screen and full-size keyboard to read and edit emails and documents residing on Bluetooth-connected PDA phones.

The Linux-based Palm Foleo, dubbed a mobile companion, uses Bluetooth to synchronize data with a PDA-phone and to send and receive email wirelessly via the PDA-phone’s cellular radio. The instant-on solid-state device, which lacks hard drive, is targeted mainly to heavy wireless email users, who can also opt to send email and browse the Web via Foleo’s built-in Wi-Fi.

Palm claimed the device would “establish a new category of personal-computing products” and would ride the wave of PDA phone and smartphone popularity.

Out of the box, Foleo will work with Palm Treo PDA phones based on either the Palm or Windows Mobile operating systems, but Foleo is also expected to work with all other-brand Windows Mobile devices, said Palm founder Jeff Hawkins. Palm also plans to support RIM BlackBerries and Symbian PDA-phones smartphones, although it wasn’t certain clear whether the BlackBerry and Symbian support would be available in time for the device’s summertime launch.

The 0.94-inch by 10.55-inch by 6.67-inch Foleo, which weighs less than 2.5 pounds, is expected to retail for $499 after an introductory $100 rebate.

For that price, consumers would get one-button access to full-screen email, 10-inch screen, Web browsing via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and DataViz’s Documents To Go application to create and edit Word-, Excel-, and PowerPoint-compatible documents. The Foleo also includes a Palm-developed PDF reader. Edits made on Foleo automatically are reflected on its paired smartphone and vice versa.

The device’s battery lasts for five hours with Wi-Fi activated, Hawkins said. Standby time is about a day. Users can turn the Foleo off without closing applications or saving documents. All work is automatically saved when the device is turned off. When Foleo is turned on again, the device resumes where the user left off.

Foleo lacks a mouse but features a scroll wheel accessible with either thumb when the user’s hands are on the keyboard. It has an external SD Card slot and internal CompactFlash slot.

Palm said it is actively supporting third-party software developers.