Mobile telephones are on a roll, according to four analytical research firms. Their forecasting methods vary, but all predict the products will grow substantially more than personal and desktop computers, printers or copiers.
Typically, plastic housings for cellular phones and portable Internet devices are molded with thin walls and electronic shields.
Yankee Group of Boston, a subsidiary of Primark Corp., projects 1.26 billion global wireless subscribers in 2005, up from 468 million at the end of 1999. Developing regions will account for 75 percent of the global additions in 2005 vs. 22 percent in 1999, Crispin Vicars, global wireless program director, said in a Nov. 30 release.
Additional coverage availability and lower, commodity-type pricing drive the market, according to Bryan Prohm, an analyst in Durham, N.C., with GartnerGroup Inc.'s Dataquest unit. Foreign markets are finding new ways to use mobile phones for electronic commerce.
Dataquest sees worldwide shipment growth of 61.1 percent to 437.9 million cellular telephones in 2000, from 271.8 million units last year.
The digital ramp-up comes at the expense of mobile analog phones. Ship- ments of analog units are decreasing in all regions, Prohm said.
Various digital-access technologies are flourishing.
During 2000, handsets using the Global System for Mobile Communications will account for 261.1 million unit sales; Code Division Multiple Access technology, 83.4 million units; and Time Division Multiple Access technology, more than 45 million units.
Prohm said GSM's principal gains are occurring in Europe, Africa and Asia, except for in South Korea, where CDMA is predominant, and in Japan, where another variant of digital phone technology, Personal Digital Cellular, accounts for 36.7 million units.
Dataquest says the U.S. cellular phone market should grow by 35 percent to more than 63 million phones in 2000 from sales of more than 47 million units last year.
Within the United States, by technology, Dataquest forecasts that CDMA should account for 28.6 million of this year's units; TDMA for 20.6 million; and GSM for 7.5 million.
Strategy Analytics Inc. forecasts worldwide shipments of cell phones will grow 20 percent to 300 million units in 2000 from 250 million last year . David Kerr, vice president of wireless devices in Delafield, Wis., with Strategy Analytics, projects shipments growing to 570 million by 2004.
Kerr said the global subscriber base was 450 million last year and should reach 1 billion users by 2005.
International Data Corp., based in Framingham, Mass., forecasts domestic 2000 shipment of cellular and personal-communication-system handsets will increase 41.4 percent to 41 million units this year from 29 million in 1999.
That is faster than IDC's projected 25.3 percent growth for the worldwide cellular-PCS market to 282 million units this year from 225 million in 1999.
Growth for personal computers is moderating, in part because functions of PCs and telecom devices are beginning to overlap.
IDC forecasts worldwide 2000 shipment of portable PCs will increase 15.7 percent for a total of 20.2 million notebooks and 2.7 million "ultra portables." Last year, manufacturers shipped 17.4 million notebooks and 2.3 million ultra portables.
Positive economic outlooks in Japan, the United States and Western Europe stimulate notebook growth, but market saturation in larger regions will moderate the long-term outlook, said Katrina Dahlquist, IDC senior research analyst in mobile computing.
IDC projects domestic shipment of portables will increase 14.1 percent for a total of 8.3 million notebooks and 763,000 ultra portables. Last year's domestic market absorbed 7.4 million notebooks and 554,000 ultra portables.
The maturing domestic market for portable PCs will experience slower growth in the long term, Dahlquist said, but lower prices may open new segment opportunities.
San Jose, Calif.-based Dataquest projects a more parallel pattern in the mobile computer market for notebook, laptop, transportable and ultra-transportable units. Dataquest forecasts domestic growth of 16.2 percent, to 8 million units from 6.9 million last year and a worldwide increase of 15.6 percent, to 22.2 million units in 2000 from 19.2 million.
Dataquest forecasts the domestic market for desktop personal computers will grow 23.1 percent in 2000 to 26.7 million units, from about 21.7 million last year. Worldwide, that market will increase 16.9 percent, to 110.6 million in 2000 from 94.6 million.
Shipments of desktop computers also are slowing.
IDC forecasts worldwide shipments of desktop computers will increase 18.7 percent, to 106.2 million units this year vs. 89.5 million in 1999.
The domestic market is expected to grow 20.5 percent to 43.1 million desktops this year from 35.8 million.
The forecasts depict a leveling off following last year's uncharacteristically high growth, said Anne Bui, IDC research analyst in Mountain View, Calif.
"Desktop demand appears to be solid across the board," Bui said. Economic improvements in Asian and Pacific markets, including Japan, "are catalysts for strong consumer buying" of desktop computers.
Dataquest analyst Paula Bursley predicted significant growth for inkjet computer printers. She anticipates worldwide shipments of 105 million printers in 2003 when "we estimate that more than 80 percent of shipments will be inkjet printers."
More than 60 million units were shipped in 1998, including inkjet, laser, dot matrix and some thermal printers.
Dataquest forecasts the domestic market for computer printers will grow 11.1 percent in 2000, to 24.6 million units from about 22.2 million last year.
Computer printer growth continues to impact the market for plain-paper copiers.
The document copier market at all levels is moving toward machines with digital technology, multiple functions and Internet compatibility, said IDC analyst Keith Kmetz.
IDC forecasts a 50 percent increase this year in domestic shipments of monochrome digital laser copiers, to 1.05 million units, from 700,000 last year. Domestic shipment of color laser copiers should jump 29.1 percent, to 51,000 units.
The market for analog laser copiers continues to slow and may decrease 33.8 percent, to 916,000 units in 2000 from nearly 1.23 million last year.
Digital copiers accounted for 6 percent of the market in 1997 and will exceed 50 percent this year, Kmetz said. Manufacturers such as Ricoh Co. Ltd. are investing in digital technology while acknowledging that the product life for analog copiers is nearing its end.
"Copiers were 20 percent digital in 1998, and we expect this figure to rise to 90 percent by 2003," said Dataquest analyst Lynn Ritter.