This recent article on CNET comparing the failed Palm Foleo to similar, and arguably successful, sub-notebooks has me thinking that the problem wasn't with the Foleo itself but how Palm described the product. At its core the Palm Foleo was a lightweight (2.5 lbs) Linux based notebook with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 10" screen and full size keyboard. It was to be bundled with a solid web browser, e-mail application, and basic office applications. In reality, the Foleo is not that different from the EEE PC. But from the onset the Foleo was described as a "mobile companion" for your smartphone, not a standalone device. By contrast, the EEE PC, and other sub-notebooks, have been marketed as nothing less than a small, simple, cheap, easy-to-use PC. The Foleo was met with skepticism and criticism, while EEE PC enjoyed overwhelmingly positive reactions.
If you want to destroy a product's perception there's no better word to use than "companion." To many consumers "companion" means overpriced, limited compatibility, limited-use, and unnecessary. Much of what Palm did seemed to emphasize that it was not a standalone device: in photographs, the Foleo was almost always pictured with a Treo by it's side; even in in this video with the CEO of Palm, Ed Colligan, the first thing he said was that it's a mobile companion. Colligan goes on to make some very compelling points, but I think he lost most people after the companion part, and, by the way, it only works with Palm smartphones.
Had Palm marketed the Foleo as a light, inexpensive notebook with a long battery life that's ideal for web browsing, e-mail, and basic office apps things might have turned out differently. Sure Palm could mention that the Foleo works great with your smartphone for web access anywhere and syncing data, but only while underscoring that it's a still a solid device on it's own. Palm could have attempted to market it to students as a great tool for note-taking in class. If the Foleo's office editors ran solidly, it could be all the computer many frequent travelers need. I do think there were a few problems with the product itself, it's slightly overpriced and underpowered, and it lacks a built-in webcam and instead of the familiar trackpad it has one off those finger killing eraser-tip things.
I really don't know if the Foleo would have been the flop people expected. Given Palm's emphasis on engineering and useability, it wouldn't be surprised if a Foleo out-preformed an EEE PC in stability and basic tasks like web browsing and editing Word documents. I think the Foleo could have had a chance, and a second revision could have been dynamite. But with the way it was described in the media, the Foleo never had a chance. Perhaps for that reason alone Palm was right to can it...