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PDA vendors anticipate product famine

Component shortages will hit their ability to meet demand

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PalmOS-based handheld vendors have warned that they may run into difficulty fulfilling orders in the run-up to Christmas, thanks to the global shortage of key PDA components.

Hang on a minute - the likes of Sony, Palm and Handspring are admitting they're going to have supply problems? Surely some mistake?

Typically, the computer business would rather die than confess it can't ship enough kit, so why are said vendors blabbing to Bloomberg?

There certainly is a shortage in certain components, specifically colour LCDs and Flash memory. Indeed, Palm noted earlier this year, in a note tucked away in its Q2 fiscal results that the shortages may hit future revenue expectations. Nintendo, not a PalmOS licensee but a producer of handheld devices, had to delay the launch of its colour GameBoy for similar reasons.

Sony's launch this week of its Clie Palm-based PDA in the US perhaps holds the key. The debut was marred by the decision to delay the release of the colour version of the product thanks to the scarcity of colour displays.

The vendors, we suspect, are highlighting supply problems down the line in order to boost sales now by stressing how keen consumers are to buy Palm-based products.

"We're in backlog on literally every single product in the line," Palm chief competitive officer [what the heck kind of a job title is that - Ed] Michael Mace told Bloomberg. "Today the thing holding us back is our ability to procure parts. That is by far the biggest barrier to further growth by Palm."

Talking up demand is fair enough, since the companies aren't limiting supply themselves - the components market is doing it for them. Still, it makes a change from the good old days of 'shortages? what shortages?' obfuscation. ®

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