Asian sales of smart handhelds up 37 percent

Unit sales of smart handheld devices in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) region grew 36.7 percent to 2.91 million units and will maintain similar growth over the next four years, according to research analyst IDC.

China now dominates the Asia-Pacific smart handheld device market with 68.5 percent of all shipments in the region. The majority of these products are low-end devices manufactured locally, with proprietary operating systems. In terms of dollar value, China accounts for 48.2 percent of sales.

Most other markets favor more advanced products which merge PDA (personal digital assistant) and mobile-phone technologies.

The largest markets outside China are Korea (8 percent of the Asia-Pacific market), Taiwan (6 percent), Hong Kong (5 percent), Singapore (5 percent) and Australia (3 percent).

In those markets, multinational vendors such as Palm Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Handspring Inc., Casio Computer Co. Ltd., and Sony Corp. account for 67 percent of the market.

Palm OS-based devices held 48 percent of the market while the Microsoft Corp. CE operating system reached almost 30 percent. The Symbian OS will make an aggressive mark in the next few years as handset vendors begin shipping their smart phones to wireless operators looking for additional revenue from wireless data services, IDC said.

The key trend in the market is the migration toward wireless data and voice in the form of converged PDA/mobile-phone devices, according to IDC. Many wireless operators are looking forward to revenue growth from data services, and hence are looking to distribute various data-enabled devices as valuable wireless communication tools, IDC said.

That move will see shipments in the Asia/Pacific region continuing to show strong 36.5 percent annual growth up to 2006 when annual sales will reach 13.8 million, according to IDC figures.

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