IDC: PDAs down in Q2 as smart phone transition rolls on

PDA shipments continued to fall among rising interest in smart phones and wireless e-mail devices.

Personal digital assistant (PDA) manufacturers endured yet another quarter of falling shipments, according to IDC, but some vendors are still coming up with new ideas as the more established companies embrace newer converged devices that add voice and data capabilities to traditional PDAs.

Worldwide shipments of PDAs, which IDC defined as pocket-size devices that synchronize with PCs but don't include voice capabilities, fell 21 percent to 1.7 million units in the second quarter of 2005 compared to last year. This is the sixth straight quarter that shipments have declined compared to the previous year, IDC said in a release Wednesday.

Analysts have been chronicling the decline of the traditional PDA for years. Modern mobile phones can often perform all of the traditional personal information management functions like storing contacts and calendar appointments, often at a fraction of the cost of a PDA. PDA stalwarts such as Sony and Toshiba have stopped selling their devices worldwide, citing the drop-off in consumer demand.

The action in the handheld device market has shifted to smart phones or data-enabled devices like PalmOne's Treo 650, Nokia's 6670 or Research in Motion's BlackBerry e-mail devices, which are not counted in IDC's PDA market share results. Smart phones give users the ability to download mobile applications, browse the Internet and check their e-mail in addition to making phone calls.

PalmOne remains on top of the PDA market, but its shipments fell 31 percent compared to last year. Hewlett-Packard Co., (HP) the second-place vendor, also saw a decline in shipments of 39 percent compared to last year. However, both companies are developing hybrid phone/PDA devices that are expected to form the backbone of their product lineups for years to come. Palm had 36.5 percent of the PDA market in the second quarter, while HP held 18.4 percent.

Acer surged into third place with a 600 percent increase in shipments to capture 11.4 percent of the market. Acer's strong performance was the result of demand for its n35 PDA, which comes with an integrated GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver, IDC said. This shows that innovative PDA designs can still attract users, the market researcher said.

Shipments of Dell's Axim PDAs were up 17 percent compared to last year, good enough to capture fourth place among PDA vendors, IDC said. IDC attributed Dell's performance to its PC market leadership, which allows it to bundle Axim PDAs with PC sales. Yakumo GmbH shipped 58,000 units of its low-cost GPS-enabled devices during the quarter, which lifted it to fifth place in IDC's study.

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