Microsoft sells 500,000 mobile devices - at once

US Census Bureau upgrades from paper and pen
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

US Census Bureau upgrades from paper and pen

Microsoft has won its biggest deal to date for the use of its Windows Mobile operating system, with the US Census Bureau.

The government body has signed up for 500,000 devices made by HTC. They will run Windows Mobile 5.0 and be used to take the 2010 census.

It is a high-tech move. The Bureau had previously used paper and pen to take US citizens' details which were then digitised by data entry staff.

The Microsoft contract forms part of a wider $600m, five-year field data collection automation deal with Harris, which is aimed at cutting the time, labour costs and errors involved in manual data collection and input.

The deal is not only the largest Microsoft has ever received for mobile devices but also one of the largest public deals for smart phones in the industry.

While the Redmond giant has seen shipments of devices packing its mobile OS double between 2004 and 2005, from three million to six million devices, it remains one of the smallest vendors in the sector by market share. Symbian is the sector's current heavy hitter, with over 60 per cent market share, according to analyst house Gartner.

According to Tony Cripps, analyst at Ovum, Symbian is likely to have been beaten to the deal by Microsoft due to issues of availability.

"In America, there are very few Symbian devices on the market capable of doing this job," he said.

"It reinforces the appeal of Windows Mobile in the enterprise," Cripps added. "What this might suggest is that people do want to use their mobile devices for more than email, so enterprises may need to examine their options more closely in the future."

Smart phones are seemingly becoming ever more popular. According to a recent report from ABI Research, the functionality-laden devices will make up 15 per cent of all phones sold this year.

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