The continued evolution and growing sophistication of mobile means a bleak future for traditional PDAs (personal digital assistants), market research firm IDC predicts.

"From mobile phones to converged mobile devices, which combine the data capabilities of PDAs with the voice communication capabilities of mobile phones, competing device types will draw buyers away from traditional handheld devices," the firm notes in a new report ? Worldwide Smart Handheld Devices Forecast and Analysis, 2003-2007. According to IDC?s predictions, this year the handheld device industry will decline by 8.4 percent to 11.35 million units ? its second straight year of decline.

This is in comparison with increased growth of feature-rich camera phone handset sales, which are estimated to more than double, according to analyst, the ARC Group. It says that by 2003, 55 million people worldwide will own a camera phone, as opposed to 25mn today. This is due to an increased emphasis on encouraging new customers to upgrade old handsets to benefit from the new features on offer.

This is perhaps why we are seeing PDA maker PalmOne, snapping up rival Handspring, to acquire its smartphone technology used in the Treo devices. IDC anticipates that other manufacturers will move away from traditional handhelds, towards more converged devices.

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