Handheld Market Still Showing Signs of Life

The European market for handhelds is still buoyant, International Data Corp. (IDC) found, with an 8 percent increase in shipments for 2001.

Despite tighter inventory controls and aggressive pricing, the European market for handheld devices (including PDAs and Smartphones) declined by 30.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2001. But IDC points out this result was artificially low due to high levels of shipments into the distribution channel in the same period of 2000. The high levels of shipments resulted in elevated levels of channel inventory, which in turn influenced vendor sales performance during the first half of 2001.

The share of Palm OS-based mobile devices declined by around 40 percent year-on-year, although they still dominated overall, accounting for more than 47 percent of the European mobile device market, according to IDC.

Pocket PC/Windows CE-based devices continued to show strong growth, accounting for almost 35 percent of the overall market. Despite Nokia’s sequential decline, the Smartphone market displayed an impressive 50 percent year-on-year growth.

According to research by Canalys, the European mobile device market was up 64 percent from the third quarter of 2001 to the fourth quarter. Palm, which regained the No. 1 spot after benefiting from strong low-end sales during the Christmas period, saw its overall shipments drop substantially compared to fourth quarter 2000, Canalys noted. Compaq’s iPAQs retained its position just behind Palm. Nokia, with its 9210 Communicator, managed to stay ahead of most of the competition, despite failing to capitalize on its launch success.

“I think the real success story of the quarter is HP,” said Canalys senior analyst Sandy Fitzpatrick. “HP’s performance in this space has been disappointing for years, but it had a really great quarter, thanks to good availability of its new Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Jornadas. It was a quarter shaped by individual purchases rather than corporate rollouts, and new models from several vendors have clearly appealed to early adopters looking to replace older devices.”

Motorola and Sony also posted good shipment figures for the fourth quarter. Sony’s high-end color CLIÉ helped it to a 3.2 percent share of the market, while Motorola accounted for 5.3 percent, thanks to its Accompli 008.

“There are a lot of new players in the market now, and more to come in Q1,” said Canalys analyst Andy Buss. “HP has closed the gap on Compaq this quarter, but Toshiba, Fujitsu Siemens and NEC will all be adding to the competition over the coming months. Also, Bluetooth models have started to appear and GPRS services are becoming available. The various wireless technologies are sure to have an impact in 2002, at both a total market and at the individual vendor level.”

The market growth rate for PDAs also dropped in the United States after five years of rapid growth, according to eTForecasts. But in its report “Worldwide PDA Markets”, eTForecasts expects explosive growth in the form of PDA-phones, a Web cell phone with PDA functionality or vice versa.

The market for PDA-phones will grow from only 0.2 million units in 2000 to nearly 19 million units in 2007 for a compound annual growth rate of 87.5 percent. PDA-phones in use will increase from 0.9 million units at year-end 2001 to nearly 49 million in 2007, or 21 percent of all PDAs in use. PDA-phones in use in the United States will grow to more 14 million units in 2007 or nearly 18 percent of all PDAs in use.

ETForecasts also expects total worldwide PDA sales to jump from 12 million devices in 2000 to more than 61 million in 2007. The capabilities of the PDA will improve impressively by 2007 and it will become a multifunction device with built-in Internet access, digital camera, music player, scanner and other functionality. The hardware capabilities of the typical 2007 PDA will be similar to the 2001 low-end PC.

“Phone-PDA growth will follow the rollout of 2.5G and 3G cellular networks because they need always-on packet networks to be useful,” said Egil Juliussen, the author of the report. “Phone-PDAs are showing early success in Europe and the market will takeoff in 2002 and 2003 in Asia and the U.S.A.”

PDAs in Use
2000 2001 2003 2005 2007
Worldwide PDA 24,920 40,435 85,620 149,030 227,400
Worldwide Phone-PDA 230 900 6,350 21,400 48,800
U.S. PDA 12,345 18,510 35,165 56,550 80,645
U.S. Phone-PDAs negl. 46 1,350 5,950 14,250
Source: eTForecasts

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