The market for handheld devices looks to be in terminal decline, as buyers lose interest in PDAs (personal digital assistants) with limited functionality. According to figures from market tracker IDC, shipments of handheld devices fell 12.1% in the first quarter of 2005, compared to the same period a year ago. That marks five consecutive quarters of slowing sales.
However, the decline in handheld device sales has been replaced by the burgeoning market for converged mobile devices, such as smartphones and the BlackBerry emailer from Canada's Research in Motion. Here the market is booming.
IDC reports that the number of converged mobile devices that shipped in the first quarter 2005 was 134.6% higher than in the same period in 2004. The IDC figures reflect increasing end-user preference for devices such as smartphones and emailers that have all the personal information management (PIM) features of the traditional PDA, but also can be used as phones and potentially receive mobile email.
"Unless handheld device vendors can successfully extend the meaningful use of handheld devices beyond PIM, the opportunity for future growth will remain firmly in the converged mobile device segment of the market," says David Linsalata, an analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Programme. One vendor looking to make that shift is PalmOne. Its handheld sales fell by 24% year on year, but shipments of its converged mobile devices rose over 130%.