Worldwide shipments of personal digital assistants (PDAs) dropped six per cent in the third quarter of 2002 compared to a year earlier, due to weak economies in most parts of the world, research company IDC said Tuesday.

A total of 2.44 million handhelds were shipped in the third quarter this year, compared with 2.59 million in the year-ago period. The number of shipments continued its sequential decline, down 7.1 per cent from the second quarter, the third straight quarter-on-quarter drop, IDC said.

Palm has the highest market share at 33.8 per cent, up from 29.1 per cent. Sony and Toshiba, both relatively new market entrants, also showed strong market-share increases. Sony is now the world's second-largest PDA vendor, with 14.4 per cent of the market, up from 3.6 per cent. Toshiba is number four with a 4.3 per cent market share, according to IDC. No data on Toshiba in 2001 was given.

Other vendors took a beating, notably Casio and Hewlett-Packard, which saw their market share decline from 7.1 per cent to 4.1 per cent, and 12.4 per cent and 11.9 per cent, respectively, IDC said.