IDC: Slowdown slams A-P handheld market into reverse

Sales of handheld devices such as PDAs (personal digital assistants) in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) in the first half of 2002 were 19 percent lower than in the second half of 2001, according to figures released Wednesday by research company IDC.

PDA sales reached 1.06 million in the first half of 2002, compared to 1.31 million in the second half of 2001, IDC reported.

This is the first decline ever recorded in sales of these devices, which IDC defines as excluding the category of converged devices which combines telephony and traditional PDA features. The main reasons for the decline in this consumer-driven market were the overall economic slowdown in the region and lack of consumer confidence. Growth continued from a low base in some developing Asia-Pacific markets and the slowdown was most noticeable in developed markets, IDC said.

China, the region's largest PDA market, saw sales fall 23 percent from the previous half-year, and Korea, another large market, saw sales fall 28 percent. Sales in the mature markets of Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore were weak, and it was the developing markets like Malaysia, Thailand and India which showed promise for future growth, IDC said.

The corporate market for PDAs is still small compared to the consumer market, but some shipments were made into the insurance, finance, telecommunication, and logistics sectors. In the potentially huge Indian market, sales growth can be expected from the healthcare and insurance industries, IDC said.

PDA vendors suffered mixed fortunes, with China's local manufacturers Beijing Hi-Tech Wealth Electronic Product Co. Ltd., Minren and Legend Group Ltd. all seeing sales fall by over 10 percent.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) made gains in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia with the Compaq iPAQ, and Sony Corp. also made an impression with the multimedia features and attractive industrial designs of its Clie product line, IDC said.

But Palm Inc. remained the multinational vendor with the highest sales, and the second-biggest in the region behind Hi-Tech Wealth, gaining a number of corporate wins. But Palm's shipments slipped by 14 percent overall from 151,200 in the second half of 2001 to 130,300 in the first half of 2002.

The market is likely to see seasonal improvement in the second half of year, particularly with a strong line-up of new devices slated for release, IDC said.

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