The Middle East is a booming market for handhelds. Even as the PDA market is projected to grow at 40% from 2006, smart phones integrating PDA functionalities will grow faster at 80% driven by business users wanting access to computing and communication functionality - on the go.
This trend is expected to be strongly reflected at this year’s GITEX Shopper & Consumer Electronics Expo 2006 (GITEX Shopper), scheduled to take place at the Airport Expo Dubai from 18 - 24 November 2006, according to organiser Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). The premier platform that will bring together the industry’s leading vendors, distributors and retailers who will showcase a range of productivity enhancing devices.
“Middle East customers have always been keen to use the best of technology. The increasingly high adoption of handhelds in the Middle East, indicates that users in this region completely understands how these devices help enhance productivity,” said DWTC General Manager - Exhibitions, Trixee Loh.
The market for handheld sales in 2004 saw volume sales of 94,000 units of PDAs, which grew slightly to 95,000 units in 2005, according to reports* received from vendors in the region. This figure is expected to rise to 106,000 units in 2006 and then rocket from this year onwards according to Canalys - a handheld focused market analyst – who predicts a healthy 40% growth year on year.
“Much of this expected growth would be fuelled by an increasing mobile workforce, which feels the need to connect to their work and networks wherever they are. This trend will result in devices that offer both fun and work functionality,” Trixee Loh added.
The vendors at the show are already gearing up to showcase several of their new models. Of particular interest will be a strong mix of traditional PDA type devices and the emerging ‘smart phone’ category that ties in voice capabilities with computing, network and e-mail functionality. A number of premier handheld distribution and retail majors including Emirates Computers, Jumbo Electronics, APTEC mobiles, Global Link Communications, Cellucom, Jacky's Middle East, Plug-Ins and Sharaf DG will be part of GITEX Shopper 2006.
According to vendor estimates, close to 25,000 handheld conventional handheld units are sold every quarter and 90,000 smartphones are sold during the same period across the region.
Vendors on their part have also been announcing a new generation of products for this market. Recent announcements include the new imate SmartFlip, a smartphone running Windows mobile with push-e-mail functionality.
“These new devices reflect the changing tastes and needs of the Middle East customers. Customers are becoming increasingly mature and demanding more from the devices that they use on a daily basis,” says International Project Manager, Pankaj Nadkarni.
The recently released HP iPAQ hw6900 also offers sleek product integrated with GSM/GPRS/EDGE and wireless capabilities, doubling up as a PDA and smartphone. While this product will be on showcase, HP will also be releasing its latest HP rw 6815 at this year show.
“The market dynamics clearly indicate that handhelds, phones and digital imaging are seeing a phenomenal convergence. This change is throwing the door open to several vendors who have traditionally been restricted to the phone and voice space. For the Middle East this is welcome news. With more competition comes more choice for the consumer on the look out for increased productivity and efficiency,” says Pankaj Nadkarni.
GITEX Shopper has established itself as the single largest retail platform for technology in the Middle East and this year has an expanded profile to include Consumer Electronics, Digital Convergence, Gaming and Entertainment, Office Automation and Telecommunications.