Palm: Forget about Cell phone/PDA convergence

TORONTO – The PC may not be on its deathbed, but according to Palm Inc., they will eventually lose favour and be replaced by handhelds. It’s just a matter of when.

“They’re going to be more popular then PCs in units sold,” said Michael Mace, vice president of product planning and strategy for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm. Mace, who also goes by the title chief competitive officer, was in Toronto Thursday to discuss Palm’s competition and what the future may hold for handheld computing.

Mace said industry predictions that smart phones will take over the handheld market are exaggerated. Instead, cell phones and handhelds will co-exist. “People want to mix and match,” he said.

Mace also negated the idea of convergence between the various types of handheld units, such as the BlackBerry from Research in Motion, smart phones and Microsoft’s PocketPC.

“Convergence is often predicted for a lot of markets, but it doesn’t always happen,” said Mace. “We are a long way from having the handheld market stabilize, let alone converge.”

According to Mace, the biggest misconception about handhelds is that, unlike PCs, more features is not necessarily a good thing. Features can cause the unit to become bulky and detract from its actual function of accessing and managing information.

“More doesn’t actually work for a lot of handhelds,” he said.

However, he noted, Palm took a giant misstep when it released its newest Palm without e-mail capabilities. “We are looking at integrating that one very aggressively,” he said.

Looking ahead to the second half of 2001, Palm said it would commence phase one of its e-wallet, provide enhanced multimedia capabilities, and utilize the capabilities of Bluetooth.

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