Industry analysts have predicted that worldwide handheld computer shipments will exceed 5.7 million units in 1999, as more devices begin to incorporate wireless data access.
According to industry researcher Dataquest, the handheld market is projected to grow in excess of 30 per cent by 2003, when worldwide shipments are expected to reach 21 million units.
In 1998, the market reached $1.6 billion and is on track to reach $2.3 billion this year, Dataquest said.
Scott Miller, principal analyst for Dataquest's mobile computing division commented: "In 1998, the handheld market crossed the important billion dollar sales threshold and is well on the way to reaching critical mass."
He added, "Enhanced communication, including wireless access, enables a new class of applications that is ultimately the key to growing the number of handheld users."
He added that handheld computers based on 3Com's Palm operating system and Microsoft's Windows CE operating system will gain market share at the expense of proprietary offerings.
Palm OS and Windows CE accounted for 67 per cent of handheld shipments in 1998. In 2003, Dataquest said the two platforms would account for around 92 per cent of the market.
Miller added, "The traditional strength of proprietary handheld computer products has been tight integration between hardware and software in a fixed application environment. However, pervasive electronic mail usage and Internet access are changing the rules. While the marriage of form with function will remain critical in handheld computers, failure to deliver seamless connectivity and access to third party applications is a show stopper."
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