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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Palm returns to the source
Handspring Treo 600, Handspring
PalmSource software turns up in a lot of places
Now is a very good time to be a gadget lover.

Rampant competition between the makers of handsets and handhelds is producing a bewildering array of so-called smartphones that cram more and more functions into increasingly small devices.

The advent of the smartphone has signalled the end of the traditional divide between mobile phones and handheld computers.

Instead of being distinct species, they are becoming devices with some of the characteristics of both.

But what remains undecided is whether the makers of handhelds or handsets will dominate this emerging market.

Competition time

David Nagel, boss of PalmSource is in no doubt about who will emerge triumphant.

"Rumours of the death of the PDA are premature," he said.

PalmSource was set up and spun off from PDA producer Palm to take the operating system from the popular personal digital assistant to other devices.

Woman using mobile phone, BBC
Europeans tend to talk and text rather than e-mail
Now PalmSource software turns up in smartphones and other devices from firms such as Garmin, Sony, Handspring, Fossil and Samsung.

Mr Nagel said more than 30 million Palm powered handhelds and smartphones had been sold around the world.

But while it is true that these devices dominate in North America in Europe it is a very different story.

The European handset and smartphone market is dominated by Nokia and Symbian.

Mr Nagel said part of the reason for this difference in technology use was historical.

"The interesting thing in Europe is that PCs never took off to the extent of the US," he said. "The US is a pretty nerdy population."

"There are astounding figures for the hours Americans spend on their PC every week," he said.

This dedication to the desktop and the fragmented nature of the mobile phone market in the US led people to choose e-mail, chat and PDAs as their preferred technologies.

By contrast," he said "in Europe you tend to talk."

But this could be about to change.

Competition for customers has never been more intense, not least because the growing ubiquity of the mobile meant many people were looking to swap a basic handset for something that could do much more.

This demand was starting to see the creation of particular sorts of devices, said Mr Nagel.

"Smartphones really are beginning to develop some standard categories that in many ways are quite different to the organisers like the Palm pilot," he said.

For instance, he said, gadgets from firms like Garmin came with mapping and navigation applications, those from other companies were designed for games, scientific sensing and some, like Tapwave's Zodiac, were general-purpose entertainment devices.

Consumer demand rather than technology push was causing firms to create this huge range of gadgets, he said, which showed just how important these devices were becoming to people's lives.

Mobiles 'to replace handheld PCs'
05 Sep 03  |  Technology
Motorola to pull out of Symbian
29 Aug 03  |  Business
Palm springs surprise rebound
24 Jun 03  |  Business
Mini-PC giants join forces
04 Jun 03  |  Business
Handheld gadgets pack it all in
27 Apr 03  |  Technology
The keyboard that isn't there
15 Oct 02  |  dot life

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