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Jeff Hawkins Talks to Investor's Business Daily

Fri Aug 8, 2008 - 2:09 PM EDT - By Jennifer Chappell


I just got a Google Alert letting me know about an interesting article over at Investor's Business Daily at Yahoo! Finance. The article is an interview of Jeff Hawkins by Patrick Seitz. Seitz asks Hawkins about the cancellation of the Palm Foleo and the netbooks available today.

Jeff Hawkins came up with the Foleo, which was cancelled within weeks of its launch. We all remember how many tech writers dissed the Foleo and compared it to traditional notebook computers. Lots of people complained about the price, saying that you could buy a cheap, full blown laptop for the price of the Foleo.

As Seitz mentions in his article, leading PC makers like Acer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard have jumped into the market with similar Internet-connected devices that bridge the gap between smartphones and larger notebook computers. And let's not forget the Celio Redfly, which is very similar to the Foleo, but is for Windows Mobile devices. And don't forget that you can now pick one up in the TreoCentral Store and use it with your Treo 750, Treo 500 or Treo 800w. Plus, you can get in on the chance to actually win one over at WMExperts.

Kind of interesting how the idea Hawkins had got picked up and many Foleo-like devices began to surface. Looks like Jeff Hawkins had envisioned one of the hottest tech product areas because netbooks are booming today. I guess the Foleo was ahead of its time, but just not quite up to snuff yet. The idea behind the Foleo was sheer genius but Palm had to tend to other business at the time like getting the Treo line going forward, closing the deal with Elevation Partners and working on their new generation platform.

Seitz reports that Hawkins is pleased that the PC giants have validated the market, but Hawkins sees much room for improvement among their early so-called "netbooks".

Hawkins spoke to Seitz of IBD recently about his netbooks and, for the first time at length, on his experience with the Foleo.

Seitz asked Hawkins if he had a falling out with Palm over the cancellation of the Foleo or "handling of the Foleo". Hawkins replied that there wasn't a falling out over it at all and that it was just a business decision. Hawkins, who is still an adviser at Palm, said that he's friends with all the folks at Palm and that he's not working there as much now because he's so involved with the Numenta research.

Hawkins also said that the Foleo had technical issues and that it was a first-generation product. From the article/interview:

We'd have to launch it and then do another gen within a year. And that's a big commitment of people and dollars.
It was a strategic decision to pursue a different approach. I don't think they made a mistake. We haven't seen the outcome of that decision yet. It really was not acrimonious at all. It was just business.
I'm a little disappointed, only because I loved the product concept. I'd really like to own one. And I'm a believer in it. And I'd love to end my design career at Palm with a success there.
They may still come back to it. They haven't totally written it off.

Well, I'm pretty sure that I recall Ed Colligan saying something about a Foleo II being a possibility. I know that a lot of people are hoping to see a Foleo II come out with the upcoming Palm OS.

Seitz asked Hawkins what he thinks of the first-generation netbooks and other lightweight Internet-connected notebooks on the market today.

Hawkins replied:

I'm critical of some of the products that are coming out. I think the keyboard has to be a real keyboard. With the Foleo, we picked the smaller of two standard-sized keyboards. It would still be considered a full-sized keyboard. We essentially designed the smallest product we could around that keyboard.

Hawkins also said that he's looked at a couple of the netbook-type products and he hasn't seen one yet that hits the right set of ingredients to really be successful. He said that they're getting closer though.

I think I get a Google Alert at least once a day telling me about one of those netbook-type devices. I find it really interesting how some of them started out pretty cheap (uh, the Asus Eee PC comes to mind) and when they started selling like hotcakes, the companies began making more, with bigger screens and processors and jacking up the prices until they're now priced as high as some of the 'top of the line' notebooks out there.

I personally love the netbook category. Heck, my mouth waters each time I see a picture of one online. I love the idea of having a small device that has a decent sized keyboard that allows me to go online. The Foleo would have perfectly fit that bill, plus it would have connected with my Palm smartphones, allowing me to see my apps on the larger screen. I also loved the fact that the Foleo was "instant on". Yeah, I've got a nice laptop that I can get online with, but it takes a loooong time for that sucker to boot up. And I sure can't see my Palm smartphone apps on the laptop screen. Plus my laptop weighs a lot more than the two pound Foleo. A Whole Lot More!

Anyway, it was great to read such an interesting article and interview on Hawkins. Nice to find out what he thought about the Foleo cancellation and how he feels about the Foleo-like devices out there now. You can read the full article here.

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