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Palm unveils laptop-like gadget to work with smartphones

SAN JOSE, California (AP) – Seeking to recapture its innovative streak in mobile computing, Palm Inc. unveiled a laptop-like gadget with a full-size keyboard and 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) display to serve as a companion for smartphones.

But the Palm Foleo was already getting dismal critiques from some analysts, who predicted it would do little to boost Palm’s position in an increasingly competitive smartphone industry.

The gadget, which will be available in the summer at a suggested price of $599 (euro446) before an introductory rebate of $100 (euro74), is designed to let users manage and edit their e-mails and other documents by communicating with their smartphones through a wireless Bluetooth connection.

Files can be synchronized across the two devices. The Foleo has Wi-Fi, Internet-browsing capabilities and a Linux-based operating system, but it lacks a hard drive and other full functions of a computer.

Analysts questioned why consumers would want to carry yet another device when they are already bombarded with computer notebooks that are getting smaller and cell phones, including the Palm Treo, that are getting smarter.

”This is the most disappointing product I’ve seen in years,” said Todd Kort, an industry analyst at Gartner Inc. research firm. ”They have some longer term goals for this product in mind, but this is going to hit the market with a thud.”

Palm pioneered personal digital assistants more than a decade ago and helped create the smartphone market with its Treo handsets.

But more recently, the company has found itself under a tough spotlight: rumors are swirling that it could soon get acquired while users are complaining about the staleness of the Treo’s chunky design.

Palm’s founder, Jeff Hawkins, has long envisioned that smartphones would become the most prevalent personal computer, eventually being able to do everything a desktop model can do. On Wednesday, he said the Foleo ”completes the picture” of a mobile-computing system.

”There are times when people need a large screen and a full-size keyboard,” he said. ”As smart phones get smaller, this need increases.”

Shares of Palm rose 42 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $16.60 on Wednesday. The stock has ranged from $13.41 to $19.50 in the past 52 weeks.

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