Smart phones do battle with PDAs across EMEA

The growing popularity of smart phones is cutting in on the sales of PDAs, as they offer a cheaper alternative to traditional handheld devices. However, PDA vendors are fighting back.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  August 27, 2003

The growing popularity of smart phones is cutting in on the sales of PDAs, as they offer a cheaper alternative to traditional handheld devices. However, PDA vendors are fighting back, arguing that while smart phones can satisfy the needs of some workers they are not powerful nor stable enough for data hungry employees.

The i-mate smart phone from Carrier Devices demonstrates the functionality now found on smart phones. “We’ve taken all the functionality of the PDA and put it on a phone,” says Jim Morrison, senior vice-president of Carrier Devices.

The growing functionality of smart phones is clearly impacting on worldwide PDA sales. According to analyst firm Canalys the EMEA mobile device market grew 125% year-on-year for the first quarter of 2003. However, according to IDC, PDA sales fell 21.3% worldwide, over the same period.

Despite their declining fortunes, PDA vendors contend that their devices still have a future as they fulfil a role of which smart phones are incapable. The main difference they draw is the fact that smart phones’ smaller screens limit the amount of information that can be comfortably viewed in one go.

Aside from ergonomics, the PDA vendors also contend that their devices’ longer history means that they have more secure and stable operating systems.

“Devices based on the Symbian [smart phone] operating system are not as reliable as handhelds for data purposes,” says Stuart Maughan, general manager, Palm Middle East. “Palm devices are targeted at users who have specific data needs, whereas smart phones are essentially voice-centric and can’t handle the data that handhelds can,” he adds.

Smart phones are therefore not a direct replacement for a PDA, but instead another mobile option for companies to consider. This then means that each employee can get the most cost effective option for their individual requirements, whether it be a smart phone, PDA, normal mobile phones, laptop or tablet PC.

Given these criteria, smart phones may well prove to be sufficient for workers who only need a limited amount of information, while data-hungry roadwarriors who need to access spreadsheets and presentations will clearly need something larger.

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