Palm Lead Slips Again in Europe, Asia

Palm still is the leading brand of handheld in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA), but Compaq’s Pocket PC-based iPAQ continued to make significant inroads in the first quarter of 2002, according to a market share study released Friday.

In addition, U.K.-based research firm Canalys predicted that sales of handhelds that don’t have built-in Bluetooth capabilities will start to suffer by the end of the year, particularly in Western Europe.

According Canalys, Palm has retained its lead by shipping 34 percent of all handheld devices in the EMEA region in the first quarter of 2002. However, Palm’s market share in the same quarter a year ago was 45 percent, although it lost no ground compared to sales in the fourth quarter of 2001, the study found.

By contrast, Compaq nearly doubled its market share in EMEA from 11 percent in the first quarter last year to 21 percent for the same quarter this year. It also lead Palm in the value of its shipments, which were worth EUR92 million (US$82.5 million) compared to Palm’s EUR77 million (US$69.1 million).

This last figure is not surprising since the average selling price of iPAQs is significantly higher than the average selling price of Palm-based handhelds.

Overall sales of handhelds was down by 30 percent in EMEA, according to the study. The study predicted that handheld sales would be healthier in the rest of the quarters this year.

In third place was Nokia with a nine percent market share, an increase from eight percent last year. Its 9210 communicator device, which includes telephony and personal information management capabilities, has gained a measure of popularity in Europe, although it isn’t yet for sale in the U.S. and much of Asia.

Casio, which also sells Pocket PC-based handhelds, was in fourth place with a seven percent market share, a slight decrease over the same quarter last year and Handspring was in fifth place with a seven percent market share. Handspring’s share was unchanged compared to the same quarter last year.

As with its handhelds, the Palm OS platform continued to lead in EMEA but saw significant market share erosion. Devices based on the Palm OS accounted for 43 percent of all handheld sales in the first quarter of 2002 compared to 54 percent for the same quarter last year.

By contrast, Microsoft Windows CE, including its Pocket PC variant, increased its market share to 34 percent compared to an 18 percent market share a year ago. Devices based on the Symbian OS accounted for 13 percent of sales, the same market share it had a year ago.

Bluetooth is considered important in Europe because it enables handhelds to use Bluetooth-equipped next-generation wireless phones to serve as modems for handhelds. Sales of such phones in Europe are, by many reports, well ahead of sales of similar phones in North America.

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