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Palm Foleo: What is this thing?

Palm's latest device takes mobile computing back to a time when laptops weren't phones and phones weren't laptops. Is this really the future?

Two years ago Jeff Hawkins, founder of Palm, mentioned in an interview that his company had an undercover third business. This mysterious division revolved around mobile computing, but he didn't give much else away.

Yesterday, Hawkins finally let the cat out of the bag by presenting the Foleo, a laptop-like device that runs on Linux and is designed to connect with your Treo. Is it a laptop? Is it a phone? No, it's neither. That's right -- Palm's third business is still a mystery.

The Foleo is designed to synchronise with your Treo so that you can read your emails on a larger screen and view attachments properly. It supports Word, Excel and PDF files, with the option to view a variety of picture formats, including JPEG and PNG.

Viewing files on a 10-inch screen is cool enough, and the Foleo also lets you browse the Web over Wi-Fi. It even turns on and off instantly at the touch of a button. So what's the problem? Well, we're not sure anyone needs it.

If you've already got an ultra-portable laptop then you can browse the Web, check emails and not only view files from your normal desktop software but edit them as well. Why carry two devices when you can have it all? HTC, for example, is creating similar devices with built-in phone functionality.

The only thing that will save Palm's Foleo is if it's really easy to use -- and given its full sized keyboard and large screen, they might conceivably be on to something. Our first impressions of it aren't amazing, but we'll reserve our final judgement for the full review. -Andrew Lim