IDC has predicted strong growth throughout 2005 for smart handheld devices and hinted at a decline in traditional PDA sales.
According to its Q4, 2004 figures, older pen-based data organisers now account for 31.4 per cent of the market, while newer smart handheld phone models make up 68.6 per cent. Overall, smart handheld sales increased by 42.7 per cent over the quarter.
The outstanding performer was the voice-centric sub-category of the smart handhelds, which grew by 89 per cent between Q3 and Q4.
Nokia recorded the biggest share of the market at 30.7 per cent, followed by HP (17.4 per cent), PalmOne (10.6 per cent), new device vendor, O2, (8.9 per cent) and Motorola (8.4 per cent) rounded out the top five.
PC hardware associate analyst, Mercie Clement, said smart handheld sales were boosted by strong consumer demand over Christmas. The older pen-based models, such as the HP iPaq and PalmOne data organisers, also benefited from the festive season.
However, minimal growth was expected in this sector for 2005, because the market was moving towards feature-rich smart phones, Clement said.
"There are no real killer apps in the pen-based devices unlike the smart phones," she said.
IDC forecast 55 per cent growth across the smart handheld category for 2005.
Clement said the biggest challenge was educating the channel and users about the feature rich functionality of the smart handheld market. This view was echoed late last year by O2 smart phone distributor, Brightpoint, which predicted mobile email would be the device's killer application in 2005. But the supplier warned resellers would have to be educated about the opportunities of interfacing with MS Exchange and other back-end solutions.
One way IT channel players could be more proactive, Clement said, was by developing application pilot programs for specific vertical markets.
Several of the telcos and vendors had already taken this approach to the market and were providing devices on a trial basis as a way of introducing smart handhelds into the market, she said.
The rapid acceptance of Blackberry devices in the banking, finance, government and insurance industries was an example of this, Clement said.