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HP cushions handheld drop

Global shipments of PDAs fell yet again in the third quarter, although a surge by Hewlett-Packard helped stem the decline, according to a Gartner report.

Worldwide shipments of handheld computers fell in the third quarter for the eighth straight period, although a surge by Hewlett-Packard helped stem the decline, according to a Gartner report.

A combination of slower-than-expected growth for handhelds in the Asia Pacific region and the arrival of cell phones that have organizer functions were partly to blame for the fall, Todd Kort, an analyst with Gartner, said on Monday. Shipments of PDAs (personal digital assistants) dropped 0.2 percent between July and September, compared with a year ago, according to the research firm.

"The Asia Pacific region has really gone south--down about 40 percent--partly because the trendiness factor among consumers there has worn off," Kort said. "And phones have captured a lot of the PDA attention, because they are including many of the (personal information management) features."

The market update would have shown a greater decline, if HP had not shown significant growth in which it doubled its market share, according to the report. The No. 2 handheld maker increased its shipments by 98.5 percent in the third quarter, for a 23.1 percent share of the market.

Kort attributed HP's growth to the company's entry into the market for lower-cost devices, a niche PalmOne has been pursuing aggressively since late last year. PalmOne's $99 Zire product last year was a big hit with consumers and is the company's most popular product ever.

PalmOne increased its market share slightly in the third quarter, from 32.1 percent to 34.2 percent, compared with the same period last year. HP's share jumped from 11.6 percent to 23.1 percent, while Sony's dipped from 13.3 to 10.1. Dell was just ahead of Research In Motion, with 5.5 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.

Gartner's results are slightly off those of rival research firm IDC, which estimated that third-quarter handheld shipments had risen 1.1 percent worldwide.

Kort said Gartner expects handheld shipments in the fourth quarter to be flat at best.