In contrast to slumping desktop sales, handheld computing devices are still a hot-ticket item in Canada.

For the second quarter of 2002, shipments reached 91,000 units, up 20 per cent compared with the same period for last year, according to Evans Research Corp.

The research firm claims

that while many companies may have put the brakes on buying the “”luxury”” items, individual users seem to be paying for the devices themselves.

Evans predicts the total number of handhelds shipped in 2002 will reach 441,000, up from 426,000 in 2001.

New applications, embodied in such products as Handspring Inc.’s Treo 180, are making handhelds more appealing, according to Evans.

The Treo device, running Palm Inc.’s operating system, combines cell phone, computing and e-mail capabilities.

Sales of competing Pocket PC products slowed down as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. finalized their merger in May and focused on shedding older models, according to Evans.

Phone-enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs) are also cited by Computer Industry Almanac Inc. as a reason for optimistic market forecasts.

The company predicts that worldwide PDA sales will grow to 61 million by 2007, up from 12 million in 2000, according to a report published last winter.

The handheld computer will become a “”multifunction device,”” equipped with Internet access, and will serve as a digital camera, music player and scanner. In five years, PDAs will resemble turn-of-the-century low-end desktop computers, the research company says.

The growing popularity of phone-enabled PDAs will also spur support for 2.5G and 3G cellular networks, according to Computer Industry Almanac.

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