Palm Unveils Linux-Based Ultra-Compact Pseudo-Laptop

Palm, maker of the popular Treo smartphones, set its sights on bigger game Wednesday with the announcement of the Foleo, a sort of mini-laptop that surfs the Web and edits Microsoft Office documents.

The $600 Foleo ($500 after a $100 rebate) is a Linux-based, 2.5-pound device that connects to the Internet via Wi-fi or through a Bluetooth connection with a separate mobile phone.

It comes with the Opera Web browser, an e-mail application, a PDF viewer, and a version of DataViz's DocumentsToGo that lets you edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.

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The Foleo also has a 10-inch screen, a "full" keyboard, one USB port, a video-out port, a headphone jack, and SD and CompactFlash memory slots.

Palm estimates its battery life at 5 hours of use, and it turns "instantly on" without a boot-up time. As it's a Linux device, Palm will also be encouraging developers to build new applications for the Foleo.

The Foleo is actually the third recent stab by a mobile-phone maker at hitting the low end of the laptop market.

Nokia's N800 is also a Linux-based, Wi-Fi packing, Web-surfing, non-phone device, and its adoption has been slow because of a lack of useful software. (There's no easy-to-sync PIM suite, Exchange-compatible e-mail client, or Microsoft Office document-editing software.)

Smartphone maker HTC, meanwhile, promises two sub-laptops later this year: the Advantage, which runs Windows Mobile, and the Shift, which runs Windows Vista.

Palm made its name originally on synchronizing PDAs and PCs, and the Foleo will stand out with its ability to synchronize documents and e-mail with a smartphone, Palm said, without giving many further details.

According to Palm, the Foleo should work with Treos, will probably work with Windows Mobile devices, and can work with Blackberries, Symbian devices, and the iPhone "with a modest software effort."

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