Palm is hoping that its upcoming Foleo mobile companion will help establish a new category of personal-computing products, especially given its 2.5 pound weight, small size and five-hour battery life. While the Foleo is designed as the mobile companion to its Treo smartphone, powered by either the Palm operating system or Windows Mobile, a Palm spokesperson told me that most smartphones based on Windows Mobile should work with little or no modification.
“Smartphones based on operating systems from Research in Motion, Apple and Symbian likely can be supported with a modest software effort. The Foleo’s synchronization architecture is open, and Palm expects to work with third-party developers to support as many smartphones as possible,” he said.
Palm is also building the Foleo on an open Linux-based platform and publishing the tools developers need so as to hopefully establish a vibrant developer community to create new applications that extend the mobile companion’s built-in capabilities.
As such, Palm is going to use the Wind River Platform for Consumer Devices, Linux Edition, as its open standard Linux platform for future Palm Foleo mobile companion software releases, and the two companies will work on this over the coming months.
Wind River is also providing its Wind River Workbench development suite, professional services and customer support to help Palm and its development community attain the efficiencies needed to compete in the ever-changing mobile market.
The Foleo mobile companion looks like a laptop, though Palm goes to great lengths to say why it is not one, including that it turns on instantly without booting up and users get immediate, one-button access to the e-mail on their compatible smartphone. There are also no windows to open or close or menus to click through.
The Foleo will ship with a Web browser from Opera; with a 1024×600-pixel display that will render Web pages without weird reformatting; and with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios for Internet connectivity. It also uses a full-size keyboard and has a 10-inch screen.
To John Bruggeman, the chief marketing officer for Wind River, the reasons for Linux momentum in consumer devices is clear. “The attributes of Linux – small, light footprint and real-time capabilities – make it a natural choice for device manufacturers to turn to as they try to figure out how to get more functionality onto ever-shrinking devices, while going to market faster and at lower costs,” he says.
While Wind River Systems built itself around a proprietary operating system, after seeing the potential of Linux in consumer devices, it changed course, embraced Linux, and now has a dual-operating system strategy. Earlier this year it bought hard real-time Linux technology from FSMLabs.