Sony to Stop Selling Handhelds in U.S. and Europe

CNET News.com reports that Sony intends to stop selling PDAs in the United States and Europe later this year as it re-evaluates its participation in the market. This is a large blow to PalmSource, the manufacturer of the PalmOS operating system, because Sony is the second largest seller of PalmOS devices.

This announcement is the second recent strategic shift Sony has taken in the consumer electronics business. In April, BusinessWeek reported that the President of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications said that Sony has ceded the low end of the digital camera market to camera phones. (For confirmation of this, read the last paragraph of the BusinessWeek article.) Both of the low end digital camera market and the stand-alone PDA market are shrinking in size, as the functionality of the devices in these markets is incorporated into other electronics products.

I don't expect Sony to return to the PDA market per se, because the PDA market is being subsumed into smartphone market. As such, products with functionality that first appeared in the Clie line of PDAs may reappear in the Sony Ericsson line of mobile phones.

In spite of the fact that Sony has pledged to honor Clie warranties, I would not purchase these PDAs anymore. A number of them have been successful in the U.S. market and customers have been quite satisfied with their performance. But, I don't like being one of the last people to buy a product before it goes out of production. When companies like Sony make an announcement like this before ceasing production, I can no longer recommend those products in good conscience.