PDAs to lose marketshare to smartphones in 2004: Gartner

Research firm Gartner predicts sales of smartphones worldwide to increase 140 per cent to 20.7 million units next year as demand for PDAs flattens.

According to Gartner, the Palm operating system will hang on to a slim lead in the PDA market next year amid a battle royal over smartphone sales between the alternative platforms, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm and Linux. Palm will enter the smartphone fray if shareholders approve its purchase of Handspring on October 28.

Mr Ken Dulaney, who will address the Gartner Symposium expo in Sydney next month said an enormous diversity of devices will remain for the foreseeable future.

“There will never be a converged device that suits everyone,” he said. “You can read your e-mail on a camera but that is not optimal.”

Mr Dulaney says the worst offenders for personal handheld devices in the workplace are senior executives who use their position to impose their preferences without fear of refusal.

The array of products is making life hard for IT departments confronted by users demanding support for their handheld devices.

Gartner Australia analyst Robin Simpson said local attitudes towards handheld devices are fiercely independent.

“People see this type of technology as a personal choice,” he said. “Handhelds have become a fashion item not a work tool, so selection is made on personal preferences rather than concern for their company’s IT requirements.”

Dulaney predicts the increasing demand in the US for “e-mail everywhere” will sweep Australia and the rest of the Asia-Pacific.

“The American enterprise market is demanding e-mail rather than SMS on their wireless mobile devices,” he said. “This could result in a leap in productivity of US workers by 2005 as they process business messages more efficiently. Australia should move more quickly than Europe in this area.”