According to Hewlett-Packard (HP), the traditional pen-based PDA market will evaporate within the next four years without significant product innovation. The company will therefore continue to focus the majority of its handheld efforts on converged smart phone devices, relegating its traditional PDAs to the entry-level consumer and SMB markets.
At its "magical mobility launch" event in Hong Kong this week, HP's Vice-President for Consumer Products and Mobile Business Group in the Asia-Pacific region, Chin-Teik SEE, told CNET.com.au that "the pen-based [handheld market] is shrinking at a rate of 30 percent year-on-year."
"There's still a market... it's small, but it's still there," Chin-Teik said, citing "entry-level PDA" buyers and SMBs as the primary sources of demand for the sector.
"We are still committed to the pen-based classic PDA product segment... although it's not growing," said Chin-Teik, and as a result HP "is looking more to the converged space" going forward.
This won't come as a surprise to many, as HP hasn't given its traditional pen-based product line a refresh since the launch of the iPAQ hx4700 towards the middle of 2004. It released the iPAQ rx1950 in September of last year, but this was very much an entry-level product and made few waves among the high-end, tech-savvy consumers that dominate the PDA segment.
At the other end of the PDA spectrum, HP continues to add to its rapidly expanding smart phone lineup. At the launch event this week the company added two new products to this range, the iPAQ rw6800 and the iPAQ hw6900 (CNET.com.au will be publishing first takes of these products shortly). Both are based on the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system and both offer push-email capabilities -- a direct move into the BlackBerry's territory -- however, the former is being marketed as a portable entertainment device while the latter is more data-oriented. Some of the standout multimedia features on the rw6800 include a built-in 2.0 mega-pixel camera, FM tuner, MP3 playback software and dual stereo speakers.
According to Chin-Teik, HP will continue to look for ways to "redefine the [pen-based PDA] category," but it's safe to say that smart phones will be the company's primary focus -- as far as handhelds are concerned -- for the foreseeable future.