MS defends CE claims but analysts are not convinced

Microsoft's EMEA group product manager for Windows CE defended bullish sales estimates for its operating system, despite counterclaims by analysts.

Greg Levin, EMEA group product manager for Windows CE, insisted that it had outsold rival 3Com three tims over in some European countries. "We have sold 10,000 CE-based units in the first two weeks of those products being made available in France, Germany and the UK," said Levin.

"We report what resellers tell us. We're outselling 3Com. In France, we now have the broadest penetration and expect this to rapidly spread to other geographies. It's in line with analysts' forecasts, even IDC say we'll outsell the Palm platform in 12 to 18 months," said Levin.

Meanwhile, 3Com was busy adding up retailers' figures in a bid to prove Microsoft wrong. In the first half on 1998, 3Com's European market share was almost 47 percent and in Germany, its products were a best-seller. No figures for units sold were available, however. IDC predicts Palm will hold 35 percent of the handheld market, CE devices will hold 40 percent and Epoc and the others will hold 25 percent.

Earlier in the day IDC analyst Alison McKenzie told ZDNet News: "This doesn't sound right. We've seen absolutely no evidence to suggest this is the case."

Asked why some analysts doubted the software giant's CE claims, Levin said: "I don't know, I haven't seen those figures yet." He added that retailers/resellers may be reluctant to publicise sales figures in fear of losing competitive edge to rivals.

"I don't think Symbian's Epoc or the Palm OS have any of the capabilities that CE has such as support for the Windows development platform, connectivity plus back-end support for wireless systems," Levin added.

One CE convert is coffee brand Lavazza. The company has wired up its French-based mobile sales force CE-based machines to speed up product ordering and delivery to cafes and restaurants.

Although UK CE sales estimates remain sketchy, Microsoft expects to do well from its partnership with BT -- one that could earn the company a handsome share of the handheld market. The agreement, described as "broad and far-reaching" by Levin, will see the software behemoth and the telco develop end to end wireless services and applications for businesses.