Closing the book on Foleo

As Ed Colligan has announced in Palm’s official blog, the company has decided to cancel shipment of the Foleo mobile companion. My friends at Engadget who called for Palm to can the device have exhibited typical class and decorum in resisting the temptation to dance on the initial product’s grave or, perhaps more appropriately given its plans for future reanimation. Indeed, Palm pegs its decision to ice the device not on external criticism, but on taking time to focus on its smartphone platform (shades of Apple delaying Leopard to focus on the iPhone) and putting the Foleo and its phones on the same platform (which makes a lot of sense, given that they are both being based on Linux).

I was certainly a fan of the Foleo hardware, less so on its initial positioning, and hope the device indeed returns. In the interim, it would be great to see Palm work native e-mail capabilities, video and WiMAX into the the “Foleo II.” Until then, bring on the EEE. And hey, Palm, if you need to get rid of one of those preproduction Foleos, let’s talk.

I’d like to teach the world to sing in Dolby TrueHD

In recruiting John Sculley to Apple, Steve Jobs allegedly asked the Pepsi executive, “Do you want to want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?” Well, now you don’t have to decide between refreshment and resolution, as long as you’re changing the world of high-definition video discs. At, the highest-end electronics product one can aspire to is a Toshiba HD-DVD player, yours free for just 13,125 points, and a significant technological step-up from the product that requires the second highest number of points, a Caonon miniDV camcorder for 12,187 points.  Now the question is, will Pepsi provide a way to get a Blu-ray player?

Sprint’s marathon

This week’s Switched On, the second of a two-parter, focuses on some of the business issues around building WiMAX into devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players. In the course of researching the column, I came across this informative article detailing Clearwire’s role in the Xohm rollout. Of note, the agreement is slated for 20 years, with an option to extend it for another 30. That’s a long-term play in this (or just about any) business.

Fujifilm gets that cameras are social devices

After continuing on his fruitless anti-megapixel campaign, David Pogue’s review of the vividly colored Finepix Z (as in Generation) touches on a topic I wrote about two and a half years ago in Switched On — the difficulty in sharing photos on the spot with others, say, at a party.

Fujifilm has enabled these cameras to beam pictures to each other the way early Newtons MessagePads and Palm Pilots could beam virtual business cards (this was quite the geeky spectacle at Macworld Expos after the Newton was launched although there’s really been no replacement for exchanging digital contact information). Pogue lays out the scenario:

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HD: The old, the new and the blue

There were a couple of great posts by my colleagues on the DisplaySearch blog this week. Ross Young writes about the challenges of accommodating a state-of-the-art 1080p LCD television in the space allocated for an older 4 X 3 television in a cabinet that is decidedly more difficult to upgrade. Meanwhile, Paul Erickson discusses the impact of the Paramount repeat about-face with respect to the high-definition disc wars, a topic about which there have been some crazy conspiracy theories. I agree with him that this will serve to prolong the war and will have more to say on that shortly.

Speaking of DisplaySearch and the high-definition format war, its HDTV Conference will be the place to hear about the latest from many of the principal companies and alliances involved. Check out this panel lineup for the next-gen DVD hardware outlook panel on October 11th (the conference’s second day) in LA:

I’ll also be speaking on a panel later that day on digital home connectivity.

Screw B.U. And the RIAA, too

Via BoingBoing comes this story from The Cornell Daily Sun (where I was a columnist for three years). The article details how the RIAA is suing 16 students at my alma mater and includes this statement of defiance from Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy and computer policy in the Office of the Vice President for Information Technologies (whew!):

We only respond to compulsory legal notices and otherwise do not disclose the identity of students to them or any other content owner who alleges infringement. We do indeed invest extraordinary efforts to educate our students about the law, policy and politics of copyright, but we do so in the exercise of our missions and not either as handmaidens or pawns of the content industry.

That’s tellin’ ’em, Tracy!

A disappointing AT&T Experience

I took advantage of a trip down to Atlanta this week to check out the new AT&T Experience store, which promises to bring together all of AT&T’s formidable triple-play assets. In particular, I was interested to check out U-Verse and HomeZone, its home video plays.

I thought I might document the trip with a few pictures, but was accosted by an employee on some kind of cigarette break while I was outside the store, maybe 15 or 20 feet away just taking pictures of the facade. I can — OK, I really can’t — understand companies getting testy about taking pictures inside a store, but outside? Does the store have anti-aircraft artillery on the roof to take down any planes snapping pictures for Google’s or Microsoft’s maps?

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The fate of FireWire 800

One change that Apple made to the new iMacs beyond their revamped chassis is the addition of FireWire 800, which hasn’t seen much support beyond a few external hard drives. A good thread on MacSlash created before the new iMac introduction notes that FireWire remains important to Apple’s migration strategy via target disk mode but it seems that eSATA is gaining more momentum in the marketplace for external storage. On the other hand, Apple leveraged FireWire to bring the iPod into the marketplace so perhaps FireWire 800 will open doors to some new device down the line — an Apple camcorder perhaps?

Engadget’s pleas for Palm

Not long after my two-part column offering a more moderate pespective on the Foleo, a few of my favorite Engadget editors penned an open letter to Palm that received a chorus of amens from the community and rightly so. I don’t think you’ll find anyone in Palm’s management who doesn’t understand the software opportunity and the sad fate of the original Palm OS through its long period of misguided development and subsequent neglect amidst a dizzying series of management changes. And, yes, the Treo needs to slim down. But a slim Treo is only table stakes as a number of strong competitors (Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Apple) have slim smartphones. My Blackberry 8800 is not noticeably thicker than the T-Mobile Dash either.

So, while the open letter raises a lot of issues that Palm needs to address, following its advice is not going to allow Palm to move ahead and differentiate. It would be like telling Nintendo in the GameCube days that they needed to support HDTV because Sony and Microsoft were going to in their next generation or telling Apple that they needed to switch to Intel processors before they had introduced the iMac and titanium PowerBooks.

Phone banking comes full circle

Before my bank was Web-enabled, and before it even offered any kind of online banking via Quicken or Microsoft Money, it had an IVR-based bank-by-phone service that was actually pretty convenient, and worked fine for things like checking balances, transfers, making payments and other simple tasks. It was killed as e-banking moved to the Web, but it’s still difficult to do even simple financial transactions from a mobile phone. Now, we’re seeing Citibank, BoA and others start to launch mobile banking on mobile phone screens. My bank is not yet on board, but I’m sure won’t be far behind.