For the third straight quarter, shipments of handheld devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) fell as some prominent suppliers decided to pull back from the market, according to IDC.
Worldwide shipments totalled 2.1 million units in the third quarter, down 8.7% from last year's third quarter.
IDC defines a handheld as a device that does not include telephony but may include internet connectivity. This includes devices traditionally known as PDAs but excludes a growing category of devices known as smartphones, such as PalmOne's new Treo 650.
PDAs are in decline as mobile phone suppliers have substantially improved the personal information management (PIM) capabilities of their phones.
Most people do not want to carry two separate devices to manage their personal contacts and make phone calls, which has led to increased interest in devices such as PalmOne's Treo 650 and Hewlett-Packard's iPaq h6315.
Suppliers who fail to evolve their handheld devices beyond the core PIM capabilities will not succeed in this market unless they are willing to tolerate low margins, said David Linsalata, an analyst with IDC.
Companies such as Dell and Mitac International have made inroads into the market with low-cost, low-margin devices, but companies such as PalmOne, with higher cost products, have seen declines in their shipments.
PalmOne remains the overall shipment leader with 34.7% of the market, but its shipments declined 12.7% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year.
HP's non-phone iPaq devices bucked the overall trend in recent quarters with shipment growth of 11.7% in the third quarter, putting it in second place. HP has steadily gained market share in recent quarters as PalmOne has devoted more resources to getting its Treo smartphone products up and running.
Sony decided this year to pull back from the international PDA market to focus on the Japanese market. Sony had long occupied the third position in this market, but its shipments fell a staggering 81.5% in the third quarter. Even with that decline, the company still made the top five vendors worldwide, ranking fifth.
Dell ranked third on the worldwide list and Mitac was fourth. Both companies are relatively recent entrants into the market and are gaining share with low-cost handhelds, IDC said.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service