RIM, King of the Handhelds

Gartner/Dataquest says that data-intensive enterprises will help to bolster the market for PDAs -- wireless or otherwise -- as general consumers start to move increasingly towards smartphones.

The research firm says that a record 14.9 million PDAs were shipped worldwide in 2005, up 19 percent from 2004, but analyst Todd Kort thinks that sales will start to flatten this year as people buy more fancy phones.

Enterprise users, he says, will go a good way to ensuring that the bottom doesn't drop out of the market entirely, noting that the number of corporate users using data-intensive PDAs -- rather than voice-oriented smartphones -- has steadily increased over the years. "It used to be around 20 percent of the market were enterprise users about four years ago," says Kort.

Now the PDA market is evenly split between corporate and consumer usage and the balance is shifting. "I think the data devices will be more like 55 to 60 percent enterprise in 2006," says Kort.

Legal issues notwithstanding, BlackBerry claimed the top spot for the first time last year with a 21.4 percent market share. Gartner says that RIM users aren't deserting the platform despite the protracted legal battle because of the high cost of switching and the low probability of the service being shut down.

Number two vendor Palm Inc. shipped 2.77 million PDAs in 2005, down 25 percent from 2004 shipments. These results, however, exclude Palm's Treo smartphone shipments of 1.95 million units in 2005, because Gartner considers handhelds as more data-centric devices, while smartphones are communications devices with data capabilities.

Bronze medal winner HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) also saw its market share fall by 15.1 percent with 2.67 million units shipped in 2005.

If Gartner did combine PDA and smartphone market share, the picture would be quite different though.

According to research firm Canalys.com Ltd. , Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) shipped 7.1 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2005 alone.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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