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Downward Spiral Continues for PDA Products

The worldwide handheld PDA device market posted its fifteenth consecutive quarter of decline in shipments -- signaling either vendor intent to scale back production or exit from market entirely, or perhaps both.

According to IDC's Worldwide Handheld QView, vendors shipped 728,894 handheld devices in 3Q 2007, approximately 1.5 percent more than the previous quarter -- but 39.3 percent less from the same quarter a year ago.

"The handheld device market has been under constant pressure, with mobile phones and converged mobile devices appropriating many of the handheld's salient attributes," says Ramon T. Llamas, research analyst with IDC's Mobile Device Technology and Trends team. "Handheld product portfolios have suffered as vendors have reallocated their production resources."

However, the handheld device market may be down, but is not necessarily out. The handheld still has a loyal, if shrinking, following in developed economies, especially among enterprise users.

In emerging markets, the appeal of the handheld devices seems anchored in the fact that, in the absence of a monthly service plan, it has a lower total cost of ownership compared to mobile phones and/or the converged mobile device.

Palm remained the clear leader in the handheld market -- even though it has not launched a new model for over two years. However, over the same period, the company has released nearly a dozen new Treo converged mobile devices. After having retired the Life Drive, Palm is relying on its Z22, TX, and Tungsten E2 handheld devices.

I still use my Dell Axim pocket PC, enabled with wi-fi broadband access, which is now essentially a collectors item -- since the product line was discontinued earlier in the year. I also still prefer to use a basic "no frills" mobile phone, instead of a smartphone.

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