EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Unit shipments of personal digital assistants (PDAs), also known handheld computers, are expected to grow from 12.1 million systems in 2001 to about 50 million units in 2006, according to a new report from iSuppli Corp. The market research firm said worldwide revenues for PDAs will increase from $3 billion last year to $8.2 billion in 2006.
"We can expect to see growth of about 55% in 2002, but looking further out, the growth rate will stabilize at about 30% annually, as the market begins to mature," said senior analyst Matthew Wilkins, the author of iSuppli's report, called "The Personal Digital Assistant: ARMed for the Future?"
The value of semiconductor content in PDAs dropped 24.7% in 2001, partially due to the relatively low chip content in products from the market leader, Palm Inc., according to the report. The El Segundo-based research firm said semiconductor content in PDAs will "inch up marginally" as shipments of Windows CE/Pocket PC-based systems increase in 2002.
Last year, Palm dominated PDA operating systems with 60% of the market, the report said. Microsoft Corp. was the nearest competitor with 30% of the units running its Windows CE/Pocket PC operating systems.
A biggest change in PDAs will be the growth of the ARM microprocessor architecture, licensed to chip makers by U.K.-baswed ARM Ltd., said the report.
"The ARM-based microprocessor is emerging as the dominant architecture for PDAs," Wilkins said. "We can expect to see ARM processors make gains, especially as market leaders like Microsoft and Palm decide that their PDA operating systems will support ARM-based microprocessors exclusively. This decision has created a domino effect, requiring other Windows CE/Pocket PC-based suppliers to make the transition and support the ARM architecture," he said.