Dell has stopped selling its Axim handheld computer line, but rumours suggest it may be planning to launch a smartphone - perhaps by buying Palm.

"The PDA is dead. Long live the smart phone," said analyst Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates. Dell's decision to discontinue the Axim line is a good example of the demise of the personal digital assistant, or PDA, he said.

The Axim decision has been predicted for some time, and Dell is likely to introduce a smart phone later this year, predicted Gold, adding that the company might buy Palm to make it happen.

Dell pulled the Axim X51 products off its website and stopped selling them 5 April, after first launching the Axim Pocket PC in 2002, said spokeswoman Jennifer Allison. Dell still shows the Axim product line on its website, although Allison said only add-on products are for sale.

She said there are no plans for a smart phone, although Dell is still selling GPS devices and smart phones from other makers.

Palm started out with PDAs, but they are now a minority of Palm's sales, Gold said. Hewlett-Packard's iPaq PDA has also become a smart phone, he noted.

"Dell has the money to buy Palm, and it's clear now that Motorola is not buying Palm," Gold said. Dell could build a smart phone or buy an established player. Palm already has a line of four smart phones that are built on both the Windows Mobile and Palm operating systems.

Dell's Allison said she could not discuss a possible purchase of Palm.