Shipments of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and handheld devices slowed in 2002 but new, aggressively priced products could help turn things around in 2003, according to industry analysts.
A unit of Gartner, Dataquest, said vendors shipped 12.1 million PDAs and other handhelds in 2002, down 9.1 per cent from 2001.
Principal analyst for Dataquest, Todd Kort, said that much like in the PC business, corporations were still not buying as many PDAs as expected amid an IT spending crunch,
Shipments of Palm PDAs dropped 12.2 per cent but Palm still shipped almost 3 million more units than its nearest competitor, Hewlett-Packard (HP). Palm moved 4.44 million units (36.8 per cent of the market) compared with HP's 1.63 million units (13.5 per cent).
Director of research at NPD Techworld, Stephen Baker, said Palm's products, accompanied by its former division PalmSource's operating system, had been more popular among consumers due to their lower prices and ease of use. That explained Palm's healthy lead over HP's iPaq devices (based on Microsoft's Windows Pocket PC operating system), since 70 per cent of all handheld sales are to consumers, Dataquest said.
Business purchases of PDAs would climb when the industry figured out a better way to offer wireless data services, and resolved security issues to the content of IT managers, Kort said.
While the Pocket PC operating system had seen most of its adoption by businesses, the emergence of cheaper iPaq devices and Dell Computer's new Axim PDA could help those devices become more of a factor in the consumer market, Baker said. However, Palm's low-cost consumer PDA, the Zire, had gotten the attention of first-time PDA users, who are badly needed to reinvigorate the market.
The third and fourth place manufacturers in Dataquest's study both use the PalmOS in their products. Sony enjoyed strong growth of its Clie PDAs with shipments of 1.33 million units in 2002, up 163 per cent from shipments of 506,358 units in 2001. Shipments of Handspring's devices dropped sharply to 698,228 units in 2002, down from 1.37 million in 2002. The figures for Handspring do not include sales of its Treo PDA/phone devices, which are considered smart phones.
Toshiba posted the strongest gain among PDA vendors, shipping 450,298 of its Pocket PC-based units in 2002, up from 12,000 units in 2001.