Smartphone market picks up in Europe

Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Orange helped the smartphone market jump by nearly 800 percent from last year, according to new figures. But Palm is losing out

Smartphones are on track to outsell conventional handheld computers this year, according to a new study, which also found that handheld market share leader Palm has fallen into third place in Europe for mobile operating systems.

Researchers Canalys found that the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) handheld market grew by 125 percent for the first quarter of 2003 compared with the same quarter a year ago. But most of this growth was in voice-oriented handsets that also pack handheld computer features, such as the Sony Ericsson P800, as well more vendors selling devices powered by Microsoft's Windows CE operating system.

Voice-oriented devices running on the Symbian OS led the pack, shipping a total of 807,270 units for the quarter, eight times more than the same quarter last year. Vendors such as HP and newcomers such as Dell shipped 370,530 Windows CE devices for the quarter, up 62 percent; most of these -- about 308,000 -- were data-oriented devices. The Palm OS powered 284,840 devices shipped in the quarter, down 3 percent from last year, although Canalys expects that Palm's sales will increase following the launch of new Tungsten and Zire models this week.

Palm is facing increasing competition from a growing number of Windows CE vendors but also from a greater variety of mobile device form factors -- for example, the latest batch of smartphones run the gamut from consumer-oriented camera-phones to more business-oriented units.

"While Palm is still the leading handheld vendor, and Sony continues to post good growth rates, the sheer number of vendors using Windows CE in their devices means that Palm OS is now in third place in EMEA," said analyst Andy Buss in a statement.

Palm was the largest vendor of data-centric handhelds, with 15 percent of the market, with Nokia the overall leader at 42 percent. Sony Ericsson took 12 percent of the market, followed by HP with 11 percent and Orange with 4 percent, selling its new HTC-manufactured SPV (Sound, Pictures, Video) smartphone.

The launch of Sony Ericsson's P800 is good news for the Symbian platform, Canalys said. "It is important for Symbian that Nokia has now been joined by another vendor shipping in large quantities," stated Canalys director and senior analyst Chris Jones. "Not only has the P800 propelled Sony Ericsson into third place this quarter, but there are indications that demand is outstripping supply, which bodes well for Q2."

He said that Symbian was expected to remain the top smartphone vendor over the course of the year.

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