Gartner Says PDA Shipments Rise, but Appears Conflicted as to What a PDA Is

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Gartner has released numbers to combat the PDA sky-is-falling reports that continue to come out. Gartner is missing the full picture though, as they don’t take Smartphones into consideration. But here’s the problem, they have no idea what a Smartphone is. According to their logic, the Treo 650 doesn’t count as a PDA but the Sidekick II does. Last I checked those two devices accomplished nearly identical objectives, albeit on two different completely different paths.

I’m not sure this confusion is solely Gartner’s fault; at some point we’re going to have to get comfortable with the definition of  PDA and Smartphone. At the moment both terms are malleable enough to fit a variety of purposes, but in this case Gartner is way off base.

In the report they claim, “Strong growth in shipments of T-Mobile’s Sidekick II and Pocket PC Phone Edition devices pushed Dell out of the top 5 ranking.” However in justifying the numbers, they say, “Totals do not include smartphones, such as the Treo 650 and BlackBerry 7100, but include wireless PDAs, such as the iPAQ 6315 and
Nokia 9300.”

It appears Gartner is making a judgment based on the operating system of Windows Mobile devices and is using some other undefined criteria for the others. I have a Nokia 9300 sitting on my desk, it doesn’t have WiFi; it gets data over the Cingular network. I have no idea how Gartner can argue that it’s not a Smartphone; the idea is simply laughable.

At any rate it’s a mess, meaning reports like this hold almost no statistical value, other than comparing them to other flawed reports from the past. This is actually good news though, since their report shows 36% growth in the second quarter of this year over the same quarter in 2004 and total PDA shipments will surpass 15 million units for the year, a new record, currently held by 2001 (13.2 million units shipped.)

From the report:

“The steady growth in the PDA market can be attributed to a combination of factors,” said Todd Kort, principal analyst in Gartner’s Computing Platforms Worldwide group. “Wireless PDAs are increasingly seen as an adjunct or alternative to notebook computers, while favorable exchange rates have enabled more Europeans to purchase PDAs at an attractive price. These factors have aided in the recovery of the slumping PDA market of 2002-2004.”

Research in Motion’s BlackBerry shipments grew 64.7 percent in the second quarter, as the company was the No. 1 ranked vendor in worldwide PDA shipments (see Table 1). Dell and HP’s market share continued to suffer, however, refreshes to their aging product lines are expected in the second half of 2005. Strong growth in shipments of T-Mobile’s Sidekick II and Pocket PC Phone Edition devices pushed Dell out of the top 5 ranking.

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