Sony Electronics plans to ditch its Clie line of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in response to dramatically falling sales. The range will be phased out later this year in all markets except Japan.
The electronics giant announced its plans after reassessing the direction of the traditional PDA market.
The company said in a statement: “Sony continues to view mobile devices as a key pillar to our core business strategy ... [but] is taking this time to examine the conventional PDA business and how it will transition into the future.”
Sony would continue to offer services and support for Clie products already on the market, Sony Australia’s assistant manager of public relations, Lesley White, said.
IDC analyst, Alex Slawsby, said Sony’s decision to drop out of the PDA space could be attributed to the advent of converged handheld devices, such as smart phones.
PDA users were increasingly looking to mobile phones and converged smart phone devices when upgrading from older handhelds, he said.
Voice capability was also becoming the must-have application in a handheld device.
Sony’s first-quarter PDA shipments worldwide plunged 49.6 per cent as compared to the first quarter of 2003, amid a larger industry decline of 11.7 per cent over the same period.
Sales of Sony PDAs in Australia fell steadily over the year, said IDC analyst Mike Sager, indicating a quarter-on-quarter drop of 9.7 per cent in Q1 2004 over the same period last year.
Sony’s year-on-year figures showed a decline of 22.9 per cent despite an overall handheld market rise of 35.8 per cent.
Sager said stiff competition, including aggressive moves from Dell, partly contributed to Sony’s drop in sales.
“[For example] Sony’s models were not as price competitive as Dell’s Axim,” he said. “While Sony has brand recognition, it was not as successful in the local PDA market.”
Like Slawsby, Sager said the sweet spot had moved to converged devices (combining phone and PDA functionality), which fell into the mushrooming category of smart handheld devices (SHD).
In Australia, the latest numbers show the SHD market recorded its highest quarter ever, shipping 61,130 units.
While the impact of Sony’s exit from the PDA market was unclear, Sager said the move did not bode well for PalmSource, one of three operating systems providers that power handheld computers.
Sony was one of the vendor’s biggest licensees outside of PalmOne.
PalmOne, which sells handheld products based on the PalmSource OS, is poised to capture a good chunk of the market now that Sony has skipped town.
As Sony takes time out to reassess the conventional PDA market, the company has indicated it will go after the high-end mobile phone market, inking a deal with Ericsson to develop the technology.
It has mapped out a mobile phone strategy through its Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications joint venture and has made a strong commitment to the Symbian operating system for future mobile devices.