Asian sales of smart handhelds up 37 per cent

Unit sales of smart handheld devices in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) region grew 36.7 per cent to 2.91 million units and will maintain similar growth over the next four years, according to research analyst IDC.

China now dominates the Asia-Pacific smart handheld device market with 68.5 per cent of all shipments in the region. The majority of these products are low-end devices manufactured locally, with proprietary operating systems. In terms of dollar value, China accounts for 48.2 per cent of sales.

Most other markets favor more advanced products which merge PDA (personal digital assistant) and mobile-phone technologies.

The largest markets outside China are Korea (eight per cent of the Asia-Pacific market), Taiwan (six per cent), Hong Kong (five per cent), Singapore (five per cent) and Australia (three per cent).

In those markets, multinational vendors such as Palm Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Handspring Inc., Casio Computer Co. Ltd., and Sony Corp. account for 67 per cent of the market.

Palm OS-based devices held 48 per cent of the market while the Microsoft Corp. CE operating system reached almost 30 per cent. The Symbian OS will make an aggressive mark in the next few years as handset vendors begin shipping their smart phones to wireless operators looking for additional revenue from wireless data services, IDC said.

The key trend in the market is the migration toward wireless data and voice in the form of converged PDA/mobile-phone devices, according to IDC. Many wireless operators are looking forward to revenue growth from data services, and hence are looking to distribute various data-enabled devices as valuable wireless communication tools, IDC said.

That move will see shipments in the Asia/Pacific region continuing to show strong 36.5 per cent annual growth up to 2006 when annual sales will reach 13.8 million, according to IDC figures.