According to Lance Wilson, director of wireless research at ABI Research, a somewhat stronger economy has prompted the company to raise its forecast for shipments of wireless handsets in 2004, compared to estimates made in the second quarter.
At the same time, he says, we are seeing the beginning of a trend towards wireless devices - some not including any voice capabilities - aimed at specific niche markets.
One product he cites is the OGO (pictured), offered by Cingular. This handheld unit, with its service plan offering unlimited instant messaging and email at a modest cost, is aimed squarely at the youth market. With its big color screen, full keyboard and robust construction, the OGO is, says Wilson, "a very high quality piece of equipment."
Another example of a non-voice product targeting a niche market is Nokia's N-Gage, a mobile multiplayer game deck with Bluetooth and GPRS capability, digital music player, stereo FM radio, MMS, email, and XHTML browser.
Philip Solis, ABI Research's senior analyst, wireless connectivity, adds that the final trend in this trio of convergence is the rapid rise we're about to see in the number of Wi-Fi-compatible cellular phones on the market. "Starting this year, and gaining momentum over the next two years, Wi-Fi-capable phones will ship in large and growing numbers," he says. "The number of embedded Wi-Fi ICs sold will surpass that of Wi-Fi networking chipsets by 2006, and is forecast to account for more than twice as many units shipped by 2007."