Admission: I own a Palm Treo 700p. I like it. But I don't love it. I bought it after the iPhone was announced, but before it was released.
I wanted to love the iPhone. I thought it was very nearly everything I hoped for.
My real love for gadgets and the portable computer began when I started experimenting with the Palm Pilot 1000. I learned Graffiti really well and was using the Pilot to keep a lot of personal information. Contacts, especially. Calendar for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Lots of notes. Even some larger texts and books.
I kept graduating to new devices.
I used a Palm Pilot Professional, A Palm III, and then a Palm IIIx. I owned a monochrome Sony Clie and had a 32 meg memory stick full of ebooks.
I had spreadsheets and word processors. I tracked a lot of personal information. I loved how responsive it was. I had it over-clocked and it was speedy. I fantasized that the same CPU behind a 800x600 display would make an ideal ebook reader. That would have been perfect.
And I dropped it face down, shattering the display.
And I dropped a Palm IIIxe face down.
And I tried the PocketPC OS, getting an HP Jornada. I loved it. I had Ethernet cards working in it. I was doing remote consoles and listening to music.
And I dropped it, shattering the screen.
I used a Toshiba Pocket PC which was thin and fast, but not really upgradeable or expandable.
I bought the VGA HP iPaq hx4705. It was a decent MP3 player but I was frustrated with the fact that VGA wasn't supported in Windows Mobile 2003. I ran the hacks, but it wasn't glorious. I bought Windows Mobile 5, but it was a bust. Molasses. The browser wasn't a full browser. I ran out of memory all too often. Resets at least daily were mandatory. And still no true VGA without a hack. Why bother with all that screen if the pixels are all doubled?
All that time, I tried, but the promise was never met. The damned things really depended on a primary PC. They were never designed to BE the primary PC. This I feel was the fundamental failure, that they were afraid to cannibalize sales or go head-to-head with a PC.
Two years ago I bought a notebook with Tablet XP. I hated the tablet part, although it was a fine noteook. It was too heavy to use like a PDA. After teaching myself graffiti, which transferred nicely to the Pocket PC and Windows Mobile, I didn't want to relearn to ink. I had to hold the stylus perpendicular to the tablet surface. What? Who writes like that? And it wasn't thin and light. And it wasn't my old Palm.
I kept fantasizing about a full operating system in something the size of a Palm PC. Real applications and real connectivity.
I owned a Treo 650 smartphone for a year before I really understood how to use the Palm OS without a stylus. Then I became resentful that the d-pad navigation tricks weren't implemented evenly across appplications, or at all in some cases. The old apps don't even respond to it. But still the killer app for me is SMS messaging and the occasional email. And some light RSS. But I kept dropping the damned thing. It's why I had to replace it.
A few months ago, when it was time to replace the Treo 650 or risk it falling apart at any time, I decided to keep the Palm OS. It's an old friend, even though at best it's old. And the pixels are still doubled. Why can't I change that in preferences? It's not even an option.
I knew the iPhone was coming. When it was first announced I announced confidently that it was my next phone. I heard "OS X." I heard "browser" and "connectivity." I assumed real apps. I assumed portable computer.
Then I realized, as it was announced that it would be available through traditional providers, that there was already a problem. Cellular providers don't really like open platforms. They don't like enabling functionality that can't be monetized. That's why most Treo phones don't also do WiFi. It's not that they can't. I believe it's because the cellular providers won't carry phones that do. They won't carry phones that allow customers to use another network. Cellular providers aren't PC providers, and they are certainly not used to providing a platform on which to run other applications.
And finally, it was muddy as to whether or not the iPhone was running a true, full set of OS X functionality, or if it was really just a pretty face on a much simpler operating system. I know what Apple says, but I also know the hardware is PDA class.
But the nail in the coffin for me is that, once again, you have to synchronize the damned thing to iTunes before it works at all. Once again, it is not a primary PC. It is a companion. It does really cool stuff in really cool ways, but it wouldn't be my only computer.
That's really why I am sick-and-tired of the PDA thing.
Which brings me to the as-yet unreleased Palm Treo Foleo.
All I have to say is that Palm better have some wicked shit in the pipeline to back this all up. Because I do want that little thing in the waist holster to be my only. I don't want to synchronize. I'm so very tired of deleting duplicate records I could scream. I have lost so much information due to synchronization issues over the years I could explode. I have rebuilt my calendar and my address book tens of times. This has made a PDA, in effect, useless. I can't trust it. I don't want to have to rebuild. Again.
So the Foleo promises to be a bluetooth keyboard and display for a computer that I don't necessarily even have to take out of my pocket. If it works, if the primary portable computer in my pocket is the one that I use to give *copies* of data to other machines, I could really be OK with that.
Give it an iPod-esque 1.8 inch hard drive or plenty of gigs of flash and now we're talking. Then I'm OK with carrying a light-weight laptop-like display terminal.
I do want real computer power. I want to be able to browse the web, I want an email application with real spam-filtering technology or the ability to add plug-ins, I want the ability to edit documents with functionality on a par with MS Word. I want a PIM as inclusive as Outlook. I want to be able to use a specialized text editor for editing HTML and CSS. I want an FTP application to move stuff to my server space. And I want an image editor for some light retouching. And I depend on an RSS reader.
The Treo can do most of that, but the cramped pixel-doubled display makes it challenging to use for more than a few minutes at a time. The small keyboard, while appropriate for texting, is not ideal for writing something like this post. The Foleo could potentially be a solution, if it wasn't for that pesky synchronization thing.
I'm watching the UMPC space, and I have high hopes, but I don't want to be tied to a single operating system. I want some options.
Right this minute, my hopes are set on the ASUS eee PC 701. I should be able to do everything listed above, on an open-source portable platform that is my *primary* computer. If it's under $500, I'm probably sold.
If that doesn't work, I'll try to find a used little Mac notebook that will run OS X 10.5.
I don't think I can do a PDA again. It hurts too much.