The enterprise must give up the PDA

The enterprise must give up the PDA

Summary: With Sony saying RIP to its PDAs, the consumer market for the devices has never looked shakier. Businesses should take note

TOPICS: IT Employment
Last October, ZDNet UK warned that the PDA was on the endangered list. Today another species, Clie sonyii, has gone extinct, dying off in its last island hold-out as Sony pulls the plug on domestic PDA products. Nobody is that surprised -- the company gave up on the rest of the world last year -- but the figures are dramatic nonetheless. In 2003, Sony was the Japanese market leader with over 30 percent of units shipped. In 2006, it will sell none.

What is equally dramatic is the rude health of the mobile technology industry as a whole. Devices with most of the attributes of PDAs are on everyone's want list -- Blackberries, feature phones, portable music players that just happen to have address books, even Sony's PSP hand-held gaming device, are all attracting attention for more than their core functionality. With the exception of the iPod and all its spawn, the common factor is communications -- and details of Apple's 'AirPod' wireless-enabled device are already being leaked.

This change in emphasis has consequences for the enterprise, the one place where PDAs have continuing value. The technology started as a conduit for limited portable computing power in vertical niches, and it has returned there. However, its time in retail has given the PDA the high performance and low costs of a commodity product, thanks to expensive research and development. As Sony has demonstrated, this has stopped being cost-effective: we can no longer assume that the market will provide cutting edge products at razor sharp prices. The PDA will become as rare as the portable word processing computer, and about as relevant.

Instead, companies considering a mobile data strategy based on pocket devices must look to those based on smartphones, and in particular those tuned to enterprise needs. These will not be cheap. Although they can share a lot of technology with their consumer versions and thus will continue to improve and see developer support, the fixed costs of keeping a differentiated line will have to be spread over a smaller market. Enterprise always costs more: how much more remains to be seen. So beware. The assumptions we've all made about cheap ubiquitous general purpose pocket computing will not hold true for much longer.

Topic: IT Employment

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I dont' get it. Does this mean no one can see the value of a tiny portable device that can store thousands of pieces of personal information, organised into categories and easily retrievable? Surely I'm not alone in requiring:
    - a portable device with a decent-sized screen (at least twice the size of a phone screen)
    - a device you can use for extended periods without it ringing every few minutes
    - a device I might keep for several years (what's the longest period you've ever owned a phone?)
    - a device with a battery life greater than a couple of days
    Find me someone wearing a suit with only one pocket and I might understand...
  • The fact that Sony have pulled out of the PDA market does not in itself sound the death-knell for the species- Sony were never strong in the sector, and their constant model changes made the marque unpopular with users and corporations.

    There is still a huge potential market for good stable devices like HP and HTC, which offer similar function to low end Notebooks with the benefit of "Instant-On" availability and minimal weight.

    Users in markets like mine (health care) relish the quick and easy referencing from a pocket device.
  • what nonsense. Phones with those pathetic screens will never be particularly useful to technical people (primarily the buyers of PDAs). A VGA clie with a HDD and more battery life is a very useful tool particularly to remote desktop to one's machines. They simply are not for you. Ah also telecoms can stick 3G on their... balance sheets. I am not willing to pay them a monthly bill so they can make up the money they sunk in 3g licenses. We need WIMAX now.
  • Got to agree the PDA is the device I am looking for and rather than it getting phased out I would expect to not have to buy a laptop at some point in the future.

    I want the correct combination of devices and flexibility that lets me work small , travel light , work big and communicate but all with one device. A PDA with mobile phone etc that also connect wirelessly to standard monitors and keyboard/ storage is the ideal device .

    As I said at the start I would buy the PDA over a laptop as the PDA can do all the laptop jobs and is truly portable.