Big Growth Forecast In Handheld Market



The worldwide market for handheld devices will grow from 12.9 million units last year to more than 63.4 million by 2004, forecasts a new report from analyst firm International Data Corp.

"We're looking for the next couple of years to be the real important years for smart handheld devices in the enterprise space," says IDC analyst Alex Slawsby. "A lot of the platform vendors are pursuing strategies to better integrate these devices into the enterprise. We see both Palm and Microsoft making strong plays for the enterprise."

Competition between Palm, Microsoft, and Research In Motion to provide devices and applications for the enterprise will increase over the next several years, but Palm is expected to hold a dominant position until at least 2004 to 2005, says Slawsby.

Personal digital assistants dominate the smart handheld devices market, representing 73% of worldwide shipments last year, but smart phones that provide voice access, as well as wireless data access, will be the fastest-growing segment of the smart handheld devices market, according to the report. Shipments of smart phones are expected to increase from 480,000 last year to more than 23 million by 2004.

The biggest surprise found in the report, says Slawsby, is increasing user demand for a single device to handle voice, data, and other needs. However, issues of form factor, price, power, and usability have hampered production of such all-in-one systems. Slawsby says, "The market for merged devices is going to be a niche market for the next couple of years."

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