CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Handheld computers giving old-fashioned organizers the boot

As the popularity of personal digital assistants continues to grow, one-time office stalwarts such as Day Runner are delisted from the Nasdaq.

Things just aren't the same around the office these days.

Day Runner, a paper-based organizer for professionals that became trendy in the mid-1980s, was delisted from the Nasdaq this summer--an event that likely wasn't noted in many personal digital assistants (PDAs).

As the Nasdaq has risen and fallen this year, the losers have included one-time office stalwarts such as Day Runner and Smith Corona, which was also booted from the exchange earlier this year.

However, the fates of Smith Corona and Day Runner could serve as a reminder to new-economy companies such as Palm that demand for such products can be unpredictable and that high-end consumers often move on to the next fad.

Both Smith Corona and Day Runner were delisted as they dropped below the tech-heavy exchange's minimum requirements, which include a minimum bid price of $1.

In late June, Smith Corona, which introduced the first typewriter with both uppercase and lowercase letters, sold its assets to Pubco after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

To be sure, gadget companies such as Palm and Compaq Computer, whose iPaq handheld has been sold out since its launch earlier this summer, have been grappling with too much demand, not too little.

And that demand does not seem to be fading. Market researcher NPD Intelect predicts that PDA sales this year will be double those last year. Sales of PDAs created $436.5 million in revenue in 1999, according to NPD Intelect, while revenues for the first half of 2000 have already hit $406.9 million.

Perhaps cognizant of the fates of their paper-based brethren, however, these gadget makers have been working this year to transform their products from mere organizers into wireless communications vehicles. Microsoft in particular has pursued this strategy, with mixed results.

In departing the Nasdaq, Smith Corona and Day Runner may have helped make room for their digital successors.

Palm and Handspring, which makes a device based on Palm's software, both began trading this year on the Nasdaq. Palm raised more than $800 million in a much-watched initial public offering in February, while Handspring raised about $200 million in its June IPO.

Meanwhile, other companies such as typewriter pioneer Royal and recorder maker Dictaphone are exploring high-tech alternatives to their core, and increasingly outdated, businesses.

Adopting the motto "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Royal has launched the DaVinci line of low-priced PDAs. Royal is also set to launch a new line of Linux-based PDAs later this month, sources say.

Dictaphone has opted to hinge its future on Lernout & Hauspie, a speech recognition company. Lernout & Hauspie, which counts Microsoft as an investor, acquired Dictaphone earlier this year. And Palm, Handspring and Microsoft have lately been equipping their digital devices with microphones, helping to erase the need for a recorder.

Smith Corona and Day Runner both trade on the "over the counter" exchange now.