Study: Nokia beats Palm on European PDA front

Nokia, the world's largest supplier of mobile phones, has also become the most popular supplier of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in Western Europe, surpassing Palm Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp., according to a study published Thursday by research company, Canalys.com Ltd.

"In particular, the Nokia 9210 Communicator smart phone, which is based on the Symbian operating system, has outsold the whole Palm portfolio, including the Palm 100, 105, 500 and 505," said Canalys senior analyst Chris Jones.

In the third quarter of this year, Nokia held the number one position with a 28.3 percent share of the market, having sold 152,335 units in Western Europe, Canalys said in its report. That is a 95 percent increase for Nokia over the same period last year.

"Nokia has great relationships with the mobile network operators and access to vast numbers of phone sales outlets across Europe, as well as the corporate phone channels. Businesses are buying these devices as well as consumers," Jones said.

In comparison, the number two PDA vendor, Palm, held 20.2 percent of the market, with 108,445 units sold. That represented a 56 percent drop in sales from the third quarter last year when the company held 37.9 percent of the market and sold 244,100 PDAs, Canalys said.

Holding the number three spot with 12.4 percent of the market was Compaq, which sold 66,925 units in the quarter, a year-on-year increase of 81 percent due primarily to the launch of its Pocket PC, Jones said.

"Compaq did have some problems with the Pocket PC in that demand far outpaced supply when they first hit the market. At first resellers didn't have enough Pocket PCs, but then it went from one extreme to another when the resellers kept on ordering stock and then suddenly had too much product," Jones said.

Palm's fall to the second most popular PDA in Western Europe comes as something of a surprise because at this time last year, Palm was dominating the market, Jones said.

"This year Palm has faced a number of problems, including very heavy competition from Compaq and its Pocket PC. They also suffered when they announced the Palm M500 and the color M505 in March for shipment in April, but the company had trouble getting the products to market to meet the demand," Jones said. The overall PDA market in the Western Europe was down by 16 percent in the third quarter of 2001, compared to the same quarter last year, Jones said.

"The slow economy is a big factor and the early-adopter market for handhelds is also pretty much saturated. A lot of long-time Palm users are waiting for something more from Palm before upgrading, and some of the people looking at the Pocket PC are now waiting for the Pocket PC 2002," Jones said.

In fact, the Pocket PC 2002 launch in October is expected to inject some growth in the PDA market in the fourth quarter, though Canalys still forecasts that Nokia will repeat its performance in the quarter, with Palm also providing plenty of competition during the holiday shopping season, Jones said.

While the Nokia 9210 Communicator smart phone is both a mobile phone and a PDA, Jones said that the sales of the unit in the third quarter were based largely on its PDA functions. "At about 500 euros (US$540), it would be a very expensive product to buy just for the phone portion, so we'd be very surprised if its owners were simply using it as a phone and not as a PDA as well," Jones said.

Nokia's success in the PDA market can also be seen as a good sign for Symbian Ltd. and its operating system, which in the past had mainly been associated with its parent company, Psion PLC, Jones said.

Psion was in the seventh position in the study, with a 3 percent share of the market and a drop-off from last year of 84 percent, which was to be expected after it announced it was going to cease production of PDAs, the study said. But Psion, which owns Symbian, assured investors in August that its IPO (initial public offering) for Symbian is still on track.

"There is a certain part of the market that moved to the 9210 Communicator smart phone because they had been former Psion users and they feel comfortable with Symbian as an operating system. But the 9210 also benefited greatly from its color screen and new clamshell design," Jones said.

In the second half of next year, Canalys expects that the integration of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) into mobile PDA devices will create something of a surge in unit sales, Jones said. "There are still many issues to sort out with GPRS and PDAs, mainly with the cost of data. But pricing and other aspects of GPRS PDAs will improve as more people begin using them and as tariffs are sorted out by the operators," Jones said.

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