HOME Technology 2004
PDAs resist smartphone challenge
Handheld PCs get consumer savvy features
Hand held or PocketPC owners are a loyal bunch according to a recent survey but they want more features, more memory and easier integration with their home computers.

There’s now serious competition in the personal digital assistant (PDA) market as manufacturers who’ve previously homed in on the high end of the market release more fully featured handheld product for the consumer.

They’re rising to the challenge from smart phone manufacturers who’re targeting their territory adding diaries, address books, cameras and music players to their communications capabilities.

According to Gartner Group PDA shipments worldwide are on the rise after more than two years of market decline. It attributes growth to the release of Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry handheld device and the a stronger consumer focus by other players.

Hewlett-Packard's PDA shipments increased significantly largely through its strong reputation in the commercial market. In terms of PDA operating systems Palm OS continued to lead the market worldwide with Windows CE and RIM showing strong growth.

Gartner says the PDA market worldwide faced low single-digit growth in 2004 with shipments close to 12 million. While smartphones present a challenge, their high price and relative immaturity won’t provide sufficient incentive for PDA users to defect.

In an attempt to counter this rivalry Hewlett Packard has made a clear distinction between the business and consumer market with new versions of its iPaq PDA.

While the new consumer range which meet all the usual requirements for contacts, calendars and notepads it’s optimised for entertainment. The RX3470 and RX3750 are not only MP3 players and convenience cameras (1.2Mpixel) but come standard with wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, bigger colour touch screen for viewing photos, greater capacity SD memory cards and through the Nevo universal remote control software can control your TV and VCR.

The PDAs make it easy to not only connect to the Internet via a household wireless connection but via Wifi hotspots at Starbucks or other public locations. A further entry into the converged space will come late in December when HP releases the H6365 which is also a GPRS phone.

Carrier Devices is also trying to stem the flow to the smart phone makers with three new PDA models. The i-mate SP3, PDA2k and JAM which look like mobile phones but act like PCs with full colour screens, built in digital camera and video recorder, MMS and Bluetooth support, as well as a full range of tools like Pocket Outlook for email and contacts, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger and games

Sybase’s AvantGo mobile web content service in its annual 2004 Mobile Lifestyle survey of over 3000 smartphone and PDA users found 85 per cent of Pocket PC owners and 82 per cent of Palm owners planned to stick with the same operating system with their next purchase

When asked to imagine the must-have features of an all-in-one ‘dream device’ respondents wanted smaller devices with larger screens, iPod-size memory to play and store music and other content, email functionality, global positioning system (GPS) and phone and camera capability.

Others items on the wish list were calendar and contact list, easier synchronising with PCs and longer battery life,

Nearly two out of three said they planned to purchase a regular PDA rather than one with phone capabilities, 31 per cent would purchase a phone/PDA hybrid.

The survey suggested location-based applications such as restaurants, movies and maps were likely to fuel the next wave of handheld functionality, along with feeding the never-ending user appetite for enhancements.

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