Latest IDC figures indicate shipments of pen-based PDAs are continuing to slide, falling by 26 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
In contrast, smart PDA numbers over the same period grew by seven per cent.
IDC PC hardware associate analyst, Mercie Clement, said the figures were indicative of the anticipated decline in traditional PDAs.
The products had reached maturity and were now being overshadowed by devices with combined voice and data functionality, she said.
"Email was the big driver but now we are seeing second wave applications like CRM, and sales force automation coming into the smart PDA market," she said.
However, increased demand for feature-rich devices from market leaders Blackberry, O2, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and iMate were generating good development opportunities for the channel, Clement said.
IDC's recent Business Selection Criteria for Mobile Computing Survey of 250 large Australian companies identified four sectors that planned to deploy smart PDAs: health, government, education and personal services (such as hospitality and SMEs).
System integrators and vendors should focus on these sectors with solutions, Clement said.
Apart from applications, solutions were needed to overcome the emerging technical challenges of cross-platform compatibility and security, she said. Brightpoint general manager, Felix Wong, said smart handhelds only accounted for around 250,000 units compared to around six million plus phone handsets sold annually.
However the higher margins on smart handhelds, compared to 3G phones for example, made the category a good proposition for the channel, he said. The traditional barriers to growth in the market, bandwidth costs and inadequate devices, had also been overcome, he said. This allowed the channel to value-add functionality such as GPS, Bluetooth and MP3.