Sony recently announced its “temporary” exit from the PDA market. The Register is now reporting that Toshiba is also leaving. PalmOne (formerly Palm, Handspring, 3Com, and US Robotics...) sales have been slumping in recent years. Some companies have successful PDA lines, like HP and Dell, but they’re in the minority. Many analysts have predicted the death of the PDA market.
Of course, analysts have predicted just about every possible event with dismal accuracy. This time, for once, I agree with them. Generally, “convergence” has failed in the home-electronics marketplace with often-amusing results. Nobody wants to combine their computers, televisions, washing machines, stereos, and toasters into one do-it-all device. Similar problems have plagued the portable market in the past. Phone-PDA combination devices have all been large, awkward, bulky, and over $500. Nobody wanted to hold a giant square up to their face and talk to it.
Then cellular phones got better. Even the cheapest phones now have color screens, “real” audio chips, and the ability to store your calendar and play games. So what role does a PDA fill?
As far as I can tell, if you have a cellular phone, there really isn’t much reason to have a PDA. If you really need both, new phone/PDA combo devices are getting smaller and better but at the same high prices, so they’ll always be a very small niche market. Yes, the PDA market is dead. Color screens gave it a bit more life. WiFi and Bluetooth are both fairly useless on PDAs. If you want music capability, an iPod gives you much more for much less.
It’s a good thing that Toshiba, Sony, HP, and Dell all make other products. Unfortunately, PalmOne is in trouble. They’ve come a long way since their roots at US Robotics, and they invented an entire market. But that market is now obsolete, and they haven’t found a way to advance their technology into a new market. Sorry, PalmOne. It was fun while it lasted.