Answers to Common Questions on the Palm Foleo

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Palm, Inc. took the wraps off the Foleo Mobile Companion a few days ago, but many people still have questions about this upcoming device.

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Much of this is a result of the fact that Palm is keeping mum on many of the details on the Foleo. The timing of Wednesday’s announcement seems to have been more about taking advantage of all the publicity around the All Things Digital conference, rather than because Palm is close to releasing this new product.

Still, some additional information on the Foleo has emerged since the announcement.

Will the Foleo’s email software support POP3 and IMAP?

Depends on how you look at it. At launch, the Foleo users will only be able to get email by synchronizing with a smartphone. When the Foleo is in range of a Treo it is partnered with, the messages will be transfered by Bluetooth.

As both Palm OS and Windows Mobile smartphones can get email from a broad variety of sources, including Microsoft’s push system, then the Foleo will be able to take advantage of this capability.

Although there have been hints that Palm intends to give the Foleo the ability to get email directly, the company has not committed to this. Therefore, at least at launch, the only thing this device can do with Wi-Fi is access the Web.

In addition, VPN (virtual private networking) support will be added later.

Will I be able to use it with my regular mobile phone, or do I have to have a smartphone?

At launch, the Foleo will only support Palm OS and Windows Mobile smartphones. Palm is working to add support for BlackBerry and Symbian devices, too, and would like to add the iPhone.

In addition, Ed Colligan, Palm CEO, says that the Foleo will eventually support "any broadband phone".

Will the Foleo come with a suite of PIM applications? That includes a calendar and address book.

Partially yes, but partially no. The Foleo can synchronize emails and the address book with a Palm OS or Windows Mobile smartphone. However, it does not include a calendar.

When asked about PIM software, a company spokesperson said, "In the next weeks, additional developer will announce solutions for the Foleo."

This delay seems to be a result of Palm pre-announcing this product well before the release.

What operating system will it run?

This device will have a Linux kernel with a graphical user interface created by Palm running on top. This will have some important effects on the device.

This is not the Linux-based operating system Palm is going to introduce for its other devices later this year, often called Palm OS II. One of the most significant features of this upcoming operating system will be a Garnet compatibility layer, allowing it to run current Palm OS applications. The Foleo will not not have this, and all software for this device will have to be specially written for it, or ported from other Linux versions.

Behind its graphical user interface will be a version of the Linux operating system. This won’t be hidden from users; those who are interested can easily open a terminal window with a Linux command line.

Will the Foleo’s web browser be able to handle Flash-based web sites?

Yes. In the demonstration he did for journalists, Hawkins said he gave the developers the challenge of making sure Homestar Runner is viewable on the device, as that’s one of his favorites. For those who are not familiar with it, this is a Flash-based site.

How much storage capacity will it have?

The Foleo has 256 MB of internal storage. At least, that’s what the prototypes have. It’s possible this will change

It will also include slots for SD and CompactFlash cards, allowing users to add gigabytes of additional storage capacity. The SD slot will be external, but the CompactFlash one will be under the battery.

Palm has not yet said wither the SD card slot will support SDHC. If it does, this will allow it to use memory cards that are up to 32 GB in size.

What will the other expansion options be?

For the most part, Palm has been quiet in this area. It isn’t known if the SD slot will support SDIO, or if the Foleo will be able to act as a USB host.

What’s the exact size?

The Foleo is 10.55 inches wide, 6.67 inches deep, and 0.94 inches thick when closed.

What processor will it use?

Palm isn’t saying yet, but the software on this device doesn’t require a very fast processor.

What’s the resolution of its display?

The 10.2 inch display has a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. In addition, the Foleo has a video out port that offers 1024-by-768-pixel (SXGA) resolution.

Who is the Foleo for?

Although it is shaped like a laptop, Jeff Hawkins — co-founder of Palm and the one who led this product’s design team — is shying away from calling the Foleo a laptop replacement. He freely admits there are many things a laptop can do that the Foleo can’t.

He describes it as a device for people who are heavy email users who need more than a smartphone but less than a notebook.

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