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Worldwide shipments of handheld computers rose 32 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, according to the Gartner research firm, putting the PDA (personal digital assistant) market on course for a record year.

Gartner said 3.6m units shipped, with 15m likely by the end of 2005, surpassing the record 13.2m shipped in 2001.

PDAs have seen many of their functions included in mobile phones and the Gartner figures excluded such “smartphones”, which are part of the much larger handset market.

It said shipments of Research in Motion's BlackBerry e-mail devices grew 65 per cent in the quarter to 840,000 units, making it the leading vendor with a 23 per cent market share.

PDA sales slumped between 2002 and 2004, but Todd Kort, Gartner analyst, said a combination of factors had led to a recovery.

“Wireless PDAs are increasingly seen as an adjunct or alternative to notebook computers, while favourable exchange rates have enabled more Europeans to purchase PDAs at an attractive price,” he said.

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