Thursday November 13, 2003
The smartphone is emerging as the main technology platform in the mobile marketplace with worldwide sales of smartphones set to leap 140% next year (to 20.7 million units) as demand for PDAs turns flat according to research company Gartner.
At a time when mobile service penetration rates in technologically advanced countries are approaching saturation, this is an important factor in enabling the world to get a glimpse of the technological landscape 20 years from now.
The emergence of this marketplace is difficult to predict due to the enormous number of contributing factors, but Australian-based Gartner analyst Robin Simpson says local attitudes towards handheld devices are fiercely independent and the overriding factor at this point is that handhelds are a fashion item not a work tool, so selection is made on personal preferences rather than concern for their company's IT requirements. "People see this type of technology as a personal choice," he says, pointing out that the enormous diversity of devices available in the marketplace will remain for some time yet.
With personal preference having such an important role in buying decision, standardization in large organizations will become very problematic according to Gartner, because if an an employee doesn't like what their company recommends, they say, 'I'll go out and get my own'
Simpson says that the PDA market has flattened out, and next year will be an important year in determining whether smartphones take over the lions share. "With the smartphone market being driven by the telephone market, and the mid-tier mobile handsets getting a lot of PIM functionality built into them, the smartphone market will continue to swell over the coming years," said Simpson.
"There will never be a converged device (Smartphone) that suits everyone," says Simpson. "The compromises of screen size, battery life and ease-of-input are too much for some people and they will continue to use best-of-breed of the phone and PDA offerings and glue them together with bluetooth.
Gartner predicts that Palm will maintain its "slim lead" in the PDA market next year amid a battle royale over smartphone sales between the alternative platforms, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm and Linux.
Palm will enter the smartphone fray following its purchase of Handspring and Symbian should leverage its entrenched position in the mobile phone space with Microsoft, as ever, competing fiercely.
The Symbian group consists of Nokia, Samsung, Sony/Ericsson, Ericsson, Siemens, Panasonic and Psion.