European PDA market grows, Microsoft prevails

Western European PDA shipments were up 38% in the fourth quarter and up 28% during the whole of 2003, the first full year of growth since 2000. According to the latest numbers from IDC, PDA (personal digital assistant) shipments in Western Europe hit 2.6 mil last year, thanks in part to 958,000 unit shipments in Q4 2003. In 2002, just under 2 mil handheld computers/PDAs were shipped, with 693,000 leaving manufactures’ storehouses in Q4 of that year. Low prices and new bundled packages drove the healthy growth, IDC said.

In fact, sales of Microsoft’s Pocket PC operating system outpaced Palm sales by a wide margin. For the full year, 1.423 mil Pocket PC-based PDAs were shipped in Europe, compared to 1.039 mil Palm-based devices. In the last three months of the year, the Microsoft operating system was in 60% of PDAs shipped in Western Europe, compared to about 32% a year ago. Conversely, Palm software was in about 40% of Western Europe’s new PDAs in Q4, compared to about 54% a year earlier. Pocket PC’s strength helped HP become the top hardware vendor, with 37% market share, compared to Palm’s 30% market share in the final months of last year. In Q4 2002, HP had a small 20% share versus Palm’s 51% share. For the full 2003 year, the two companies finished neck and neck, with Palm marginally ahead of HP with a 32.3% market share.

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