Handheld devices have been around for a surprisingly long time (Apple’s Newton was released in 1993), but it was only with the Palm Pilot in 1998 that the category really took off. Dozens of competitors, some with proprietary operating systems and some using a compact version of Microsoft Windows called Windows CE, leaped into the market hoping to grab a piece of the action, but most fell by the wayside.
Hewlett Packard’s Jornada was retired in favour of Compaq’s iPaq after Compaq was acquired. Faced with lackluster sales and product difficulties, Sony decided to get out of the market, as did ViewSonic and Toshiba (although Toshiba is trying again in some markets).
Palm dominated the market for many years, but today Windows-based units have gained traction. Even Palm itself offers a Windows Mobile model of its popular Treo smartphone. Research in Motion’s BlackBerry has been one of the few products to match Palm for staying power. It has evolved into an almost complete communications device.