Microsoft handhelds: Win some, lose some

How the PDA was won

How the PDA was won

With the latest analyst figures showing that Microsoft has finally managed to overtake PalmSource in the operating systems stakes, is Redmond seeing some green shoots?

Stats recently released by analyst house Gartner show that there are more PDA devices worldwide running Windows CE than rival PalmOS - a landmark the Redmond giant has been tantalisingly close to for some time.

Its efforts to pull off the same trick on smart phones - where it has roughly half the share of market leader Symbian - haven't met with the same success.

So why the divergence? Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO of Microsoft EMEA, said: "This is a demonstration that Microsoft can be relentless, by that I mean we can be super-committed," adding that Redmond surpassed Palm in Europe 12 to 18 months ago.

Courtois said the move to tackle the smart phone market "was something we embarked on a few years ago", and is being buoyed by the vendors. "You see the... quality of telephone stock is up."

"When you look at penetration [of smart phones], it's quite small," he said. "In the future, you will see evolution of software stack - there will be deep integration of media players."

Courtois also foresees a spreading of the technology seen in smart phones to more average phones.

His predictions are popular in the mobile world. According to analyst house ARC Group, smart phone sales made up 3 per cent of the total mobile phone market but by 2009, 16 per cent of all handsets sold will be smart phones - totalling some 125 million smart phones.

Speaking at the recent Symbian Expo, Kevin Gillan, director of group business development for Carphone Warehouse, also expressed the belief that adding music functionality would give smart phones a broader audience.

They would have "greater appeal to youth market. There's a mass market opportunity out there around multimedia... and MP3," he said.

Nevertheless, with Redmond-flavoured XDAs often tapped up for business use rather than snapped up by early adopters for personal use, Microsoft has yet to capitalise on the enthusiasm that some of its products cause.

"It's always the case [with technology]", Courtois said. "As an individual, you take your own responsibility, you vote with a cheque" - a luxury CIOs don't have, he added.