Handheld shipments soar in Europe

Shipments of handheld mobile devices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia soared 62 percent in the first quarter of 2004 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to a market research report released Tuesday by Canalys.com Ltd.

Total shipments in the first quarter were 2.5 million units, compared to 1.5 million the year before, according to the market research group in Reading, England.

The Canalys report focuses on multifunction mobile devices such as PDAs (personal digital assistants) and smart phones. It excludes mobile phones designed solely for telephony.

Nokia Corp., the world's largest mobile phone maker, remained the leading supplier of mobile devices in the region. The Espoo, Finland, supplier increased shipments by 89 percent to 1.2 million, accounting for 48.4 percent of the market. It was followed by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) with 251,530 shipments or 10.2 percent market share, and PalmOne Inc. with 250,310 units or 10.1 percent.

Siemens AG was among the top five with 82,970 units, capturing 3.4 percent of the market. The Munich-based manufacturer trailed Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB with 175,450 units or 7.1 percent.

The report differentiated between devices used primarily for data applications, such as PDAs, and smart phones used primarily for voice.

Demand was strongest for voice-centric smart phones, with shipments up 83 percent to 1.6 million from 885,980 in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report. Nokia retained its lead in this category with 1.2 million units, up 89 percent year-on-year, accounting for 73.8 percent of the market. The nearest competitor was Sony Ericsson with 175,450 units or 10.8 percent, followed by Siemens with 82,970 units or 5.1 percent.

Shipments of voice-centric smart phones with the operating system (OS) software supplied by Symbian Ltd. were 1.5 million, up 83 percent year-on-year, accounting for 91.2 percent of the market. Microsoft Corp. was the second leading OS supplier with 7.8 percent market share, followed by PalmSource Inc. with 1.0 percent.

Data-centric handheld device shipments were up 33 percent in the first quarter to 852,570 compared to a year earlier. HP increased its shipments 56 percent year-on-year to 251,530, accounting for 29.5 percent of the market. In second place was PalmOne with 233,560 units or 27.4 percent, followed by Research In Motion Ltd. with 68,460 or 8.0 percent and Dell Inc. with 43,120 or 5.1 percent.

Microsoft was the leading supplier of OS software for data-centric handhelds, with shipments up 57 percent to 487,030, accounting for 57.1 percent of the market. Second to the U.S. software giant was PalmSource with 275,760 shipments or 32.3 market share.

"We expect the market for mobile devices to continue its strong growth curve," said Canalys analyst Rachel Lashford. "Growth will come not only from the introduction of new products but also a shift from individuals mostly buying handhelds to more and more corporations buying these devices for their mobile employees."

The line between voice-centric and data-centric devices will continue to blur, Lashford said, especially with the launch of products such as Motorola Inc.'s new MPx smart phones.

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