Another nail in the PDA's coffin?

Almost exactly 10 years ago, Palm introduced the Palm Pilot, which changed how many of us work while mobile. Now, Palm has announced another product that could spur equally far-reaching changes: the Treo 680 smart phone, which is expected to sell for about US$200.

Palm wasn't the first to introduce a PDA, as any fan of the Apple Newton will tell you. And it isn't the first to offer a smart phone for $200 or less. Similarly priced phones such as the Nokia E62 and the BlackBerry Pearl are already available. Smart phones typically can access e-mail and the Web, manage personal information and be used for phone calls.

But Palm had the marketing savvy 10 ten years ago to make the Palm Pilot a widespread success. And it likely still has the savvy to turn the smart phone, which so far has been embraced primarily by early adopters doling out as much as $600, into a mainstream tool for consumers. The irony is that the victim of lower smart phone prices will be Palm's first big innovation, the PDA.

"Clearly, PDAs as a growth market are done," said Neil Strother, research director for mobile devices, content and services for market research firm NPD.

Accelerating the trend

The downward spiral for PDAs had already started well before the recent announcement of the Treo 680, which has not yet been released. NPD, which monitors sales of such devices, reports that about 2.6 million PDAs were sold in retail stores from October 2003 through September 2004. Two years later, unit sales had fallen to 1.5 million units, according to NPD.