At least one analyst is warning Palm to watch its back as Dell makes its way into the handheld market.

Warren Chaisatien, a senior analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada, says Dell’s foray into the Canadian mobile device space with its Pocket PC Axim X5 has changed the face of the mobile computing

wars by turning it into a commodity market.

“”This is very scary for Palm because when you target the enterprise market, IT managers will find themselves drawn to the Microsoft platform . . . Dell is not a technology company, they don’t care about all this wonderful functionality. They’re concerned with sales,”” Chaisatien says. “”Even though Palm holds a 70 per cent lead, that lead is diminishing on a daily basis and Dell’s entry into the market place confirms that.””

Palm’s efforts are sharply focused on maintaining its leadership position. In that vein, it recently unveiled the Tungsten T enterprise device, which will be followed by the Tungsten W, available early in 2003 (see benchmark on PDAs, p. 16).

Michael Moskowitz, president and general manager of Palm Canada, says he’s confident Palm will retain its market position. “”According to Evans Research, we’ve (sold) one million units in Canada (to date); that’s an enormous amount for us to achieve,”” he says. “”Contrary to the doom and gloom we’ve seen in other technology sectors, the handheld market has grown. Between 2001 and 2002, the market grew by about 37 per cent and is expected to grow between 2002 and 2003 by 12 per cent year-over-year.””

IDC Canada reports the Canadian handheld corporate sector is expected to grow by 36 per cent per year from now until 2006.

“”Price point may be a differentiating factor,”” says Chaisatien. “”If I’m a heavy data user who doesn’t need a voice-centric device and I already own a cell phone . . . the two-piece device (Tungsten T) will only do for the time being. Moving forward, nobody’s going to tolerate a two-piece device.””

Built with the Palm OS 5 and Texas Instruments’ OMAP1510 processor, the Tungsten T features wireless communication via the Bluetooth standard, provided the user has a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, PC, or laptop. Perhaps the most compelling difference between Palm’s Tungsten family and the competition is Palm’s partnership with GSM/GPRS network carrier Rogers Wireless AT&T.

“”More than 60 per cent of the mobile voice calls made today are over the GSM platform and we think it’ll continue to be the dominant platform as we move towards 3G (third-generation networks),”” says Mansell Nelson, Rogers Wireless AT&T’s vice-president of interactive mobile services. “”Rogers also has a significant investment with AT&T Wireless out of the U.S. . . . that means seamless, one-way, cross-border service between the U.S. and Canada.””

Theodore Babiak, associate broker for Royal LePage R.E.S. Ltd. in Toronto, took the Tungsten T for a test drive recently, upgrading from a Palm m505. He says he wouldn’t be willing to pay more than $1,000 for the device.

“”Ideally, I’d like to pay somewhere between $500 and $600, although I realize that’s probably not going to be the case,”” he says. “”It depends on the operating system. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t get a BlackBerry.””

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