Toshiba to beam into PDA market
July 16, 2001, 4:40 a.m. PT
TOKYO–Japanese electronics conglomerate Toshiba unveiled Monday its first personal digital assistant, due for launch in Japan next month and in the United States this autumn, and aimed at high-end corporate users.
The announcement comes barely one week after rival NEC, Japan’s biggest PC maker, said it would unveil its first PDA by the end of the year and also target the lucrative but increasingly crowded corporate market, where Compaq Computer’s iPAQ has met with an enthusiastic response.
“I think the corporate market will ramp up quickly,” Tetsuya Mizoguchi, president of Toshiba’s recently formed mobile communications company, told a news conference.
Toshiba’s Genio handhelds, which at 12.5 cm by 7.75 cm (five inches by three inches) are small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, will use Microsoft Windows Pocket PC operating system and a 206 megahertz StrongArm processor from Intel. The device will also feature two slots: one for secure digital (SD) cards and one for Compact Flash II, that can expand memory or add features such as wireless communications and can be used simultaneously, allowing its users, for example, to listen to music while browsing e-mail.
It will not be cheap.
The standard version of the Genio will go on sale in Japan on August 20 and retail for about $560 (70,000 yen). An advanced model with one gigabit of memory in a built-in microdrive will hit the market in late September at $800.
Although the price is double that of some standard PDAs, Mizoguchi said the near-PC level of functions and security would make it attractive to corporate customers, especially for use in the field, and noted that Compaq’s higher-priced $599 iPAQ model was selling better than the $399 model.
Toshiba set a modest sales target in Japan of 10,000 units a month, but expects the U.S. market, which now accounts for 60 to 70 percent of global PDA sales, to be a bigger source of sales.
Mizoguchi added that Toshiba, which aims to launch the Genio in the United States this autumn and to offer a model with a built-in wireless modem sometime in the business year starting next April, eventually hopes to gain a 20 percent share of the world market.
Market researcher IDC has forecast the market will more than double to 30 million units by 2004 from 13.5 million this year.
The company will also target the personal entertainment market, Mizoguchi said, and is now developing a model for NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s mobile carrier, using third-generation wireless technology. The product will soon enter the testing phase and includes a built-in camera and can display moving pictures, he said.
“I think the PDA is a product with a lot of breadth and depth,”‘ he said.
For now, however, the company is focused squarely on the corporate market, where it plans to cooperate with software and service providers such as Itochu Techno-Science, a major Japanese systems integrator, and Oracle of Japan, a unit of corporate software giant Oracle and a Toshiba partner in the computer services business.
Toshiba acknowledged that competition, including from Japanese rivals, would be tough. “NEC is a worry because of their strength with corporate customers,” said Hidekazu Izumi, a manager in Toshiba’s mobile communications and computing division. NEC’s PDA, like Toshiba’s, will also feature an Intel chip and the Windows operating system.
Toshiba’s shares ended Monday trade 1.16 percent higher, modestly outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average’s 0.1 percent decline.
They have steadied somewhat after sliding a week ago to their lowest in 33 months because of worries that a protracted slump in the info-tech sector would sap profits in the company’s key chip and PC divisions.
Story Copyright 2001 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.