Shipments of pocket-sized computers declined 18 percent in 2003, despite moderate gains in the fourth quarter, according to industry research.
For the full year, the total handheld market decreased to 10.4 million units, off 17.9 percent from the previous year's shipments of 12.6 million units, research firm IDC said in its Worldwide Handheld report.
In the fourth quarter, shipments rose to 3.4 million units, up 3.2 percent from the previous year, and up 52.7 percent from the third quarter.
Handheld computers are pocket digital organizers that can store thousands of entries of contacts, appointments and personal memos. Some can play MP3 music files and perform other media functions.
Demand for the gadgets grew rapidly several year ago, led by companies such as Palm Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. But interest has waned as consumers balked at high prices, and after other products -- like mobile phones -- began to incorporate those same functions.
"With a growing number of vendors and products that combine both personal information management (PIM) capability and telephony, consumers are moving away from devices that offer only PIM capability," IDC's David Linsalata said in a statement.
IDC said the top four vendors -- palmOne Inc., HP, Sony Corp. and Dell Inc., respectively -- maintained their market positions during the fourth quarter.