Worldwide growth of handheld PCs and mobile information appliances will surpass unit shipments of notebook computers within three years, with smartphones experiencing the biggest growth, analysts have predicted.
According to US research company Mobile Insights, the phenomenal growth of the emerging handheld market has been fuelled primarily by the success of Palm Computing's handheld organiser range.
More than three million Palm devices have been sold since their launch and the market experienced a further boost with the introduction of Microsoft's Windows CE handheld operating system.
David Hayden, senior analyst with Mobile Insights commented: "The mobile information appliance market will enjoy exponential growth over the next few years, with annual worldwide sales exceeding 25 million units by the end of 2002."
He added: "Wireless communications will be the catalyst fuelling the growth of this new mobile market, and as the killer application, will lead to pervasive use of handheld computers."
In addition to handheld PCs and palm sized PCs, Hayden predicted that the most explosive growth will occur in a relatively new category of mobile information appliance, the smartphone.
He said the Psion, Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola tie up Symbian, will play a pivotal role in this segment of the market.
"The first Symbian based phones, such as the just announced Ericsson R380 Smartphone, will begin to appear in the market early next year, with 2001 representing the most significant growth year for the category."
Hayden said that while Microsoft has made several attempts to dominate the mobile information appliance market, it still has some way to go.
He added that Windows CE has not so far been successful in capturing a significant market share in the market, and that Palm Computing will continue to enjoy its market leadership up to the millennium.
In addition, Hayden said Microsoft is a "wild card" in the smartphone arena.
"Its initial foray into the smartphone market has been a service play with the creation of Wirelessknowledge, a joint venture between Microsoft and Qualcomm."
"Microsoft is expected to add a smartphone platform for Windows CE in the near future, but many issues will need to be addressed before this strategy can become a reality."
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