Some Handheld Makers Snub the U.S.

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In a single day, both Sony and Toshiba announced new models that won’t be available in the United States. Another highly-anticipated Pocket PC, the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720, also isn’t being introduced in this country.

The news that Sony’s Clie PEG-VZ90 won’t be available outside of Japan didn’t come as a surprise. Sony announced in June that it will introduce no more handhelds outside of Japan, at least for the rest of this year.

The Pocket Loox line has never been widely distributed in this country, so the fact that the Pocket Loox 720 won’t be either comes as no surprise.

However, the fact that the Toshiba e830 won’t be coming to the U.S. caught many by surprise.

Some Possible Explanations

None of these companies have given reasons why they have decided to not release models in the U.S. The theory that is most often expressed to explain it is that the U.S. handheld market is dominated by three companies, squeezing out smaller competitors.

According to Gartner Dataquest, palmOne, Research in Motion, and HP accounted for over 77 percent of U.S. handheld sales during the second quarter of this year.

The remaining handheld makers — including Sony and Toshiba — have very small shares of this market. This makes it difficult for these companies to turn a profit on sales to the U.S.

However, these companies have larger shares in Europe and/or Japan, so they continue to distribute their products there.

Of course, there are other theories, as well.

A few hold to the belief that U.S. handheld users are more demanding, making support costs higher, cutting into profitability.

In addition, palmOne, Research in Motion, and HP are all based in North America, giving them a geographical advantage in this area. Both Sony and Toshiba are based in Japan, and Fujitsu-Siemens is based in Europe, so perhaps these companies are concentrating in areas where they have a geographical advantage of their own.

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