PDA market in state of limbo

At Comdex Canada 2001 held in Toronto, Mike Lazaridis, president and CEO of Research in Motion, kicked off the event with an overview of the wireless market.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company has been developing wireless products since 1987, with Blackberry now being adopted by over 10,000 corporations, government agencies and institutions, Lazaridis said. He believes there is a certain formula to making these devices attractive to the end user. “For a handheld to be truly successful, the device has to be thin and less than five ounces. We call it the shirt pocket effect.”

He discussed the push versus pull methodology of wireless devices. “Push technology means that information is pushed to you (while) pull you are trying to get information from me.” But the essence of the Blackberry device he added, is its ability to have instant messaging by making e-mail wireless.

Analysts agree that RIM is serving a sector of the market, but remain apprehensive as to when PDAs will impact the market as expected.

“If we want to get people wireless e-mail, then, yes, you’re probably looking at somebody doing a roll out of RIM Blackberry devices”, said Kenneth Smiley senior analyst at Giga in Kansas City, Miss. From Giga’s most recent statistics of their enterprise clients, 56 per cent they are taking a wait-and-see approach in the PDA market to see what is coming to market, he said.

Smiley said the recent downturn has lead to IT managers concentrating on core support and business practices. Another problem remains the lack of technological infrastructure. “2.5G is already being deployed in Europe and so they’re getting a head start on the U.S. and Canada. It will help for some clients where they’re looking at a specific solution that solves a problem for them.”

Within that discourse, he warned that mobile platforms can last no longer than 18 months, adding that until life cycles are longer and returns are more stable, companies may consider another approach. “It may be having multiple devices, multiple platform strategies because that’s what it’s going to require for an enterprise that wants to attack these problems.” Ultimately then, the majority will wait for more ubiquity, higher bandwidth capability and faster devices, he said.

Warren Chaisatien agreed that full-scale adoptions of PDAs have been delayed because of the slowdowns experienced in IT. “As an IT manager, you have to think twice about getting a handheld device for $800 for your employees,” said the analyst from IDC Canada in Toronto. However, prices will not be a factor in corporate adoption in the long term, he said. RIM’s Blackberry enjoys an advantage in the market currently because it has wireless access built into its device, according to Chaisatien.

Yet, the movement to a 2.5G or 3G network will have a tremendous impact on the wireless market as bandwidth is currently problematic. “With any existing handheld device like RIM or the Compaq iPAQ, you are pretty limited in your ability to get to on the Web and to download from the Web to your handheld and that has to do with not enough bandwidth.”