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Palm Foleo: It's hardware for Webware

The Foleo is not an obvious winner... until you try it.

I owe an apology to my lunch companions at D5. When conversation turned to the Palm Foleo, I said it was a terrible idea. Overpriced, underfeatured, and too close to the well-established laptop market.

That was before I got my hands on one. It took me only a few minutes to develop a desire to get one of these for myself. This is partly because I tried the product while my back was straining from the messenger bag carrying my Thinkpad. The Foleo is tiny and light, yet big enough to hold a full keyboard and a nice screen.

Small, light, and useful. But too expensive. CNET Networks

It was also because I was in a rush, and the Foleo powered on instantly when I opened its lid (just like a Palm Pilot is instant-on).

The device does e-mail and it surfs the Web, and not much more. But most of the time, especially when I'm traveling, I don't need anything else.

Downsides: It's still too expensive. At about $500, it's over my personal tech budget for a device that does the same thing that my laptop does. And although it has Wi-Fi, you don't get full functionality unless you pair the device, via Bluetooth, to your mobile phone. This is because the Foleo's e-mail application relies on your mobile phone's e-mail client to feed it; the Wi-Fi connection is used only for Web browsing. Of course, you could use the Foleo for Web e-mail, but over a cellular connection that would be painful.

But I actually think this is great hardware for Webware. It's got problems, but it's a very slick and useful gizmo. I'd buy one if I could afford it.

See also: More Foleo pictures.