European Handheld Sales See Double-Digit Growth

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Market research firm IDC has released figures for handheld shipments in Europe during the last quarter of 2003, and also for the entire year. Shipments during the quarter jumped strongly, bringing a double digit increase for the whole year. This is the first time annual sales of handhelds have increased in the region since 2000.

There were 958,000 devices shipped during the October-December quarter, a 38% increase over the same quarter in 2002. For all of 2003, a record 2.6 million handhelds shipped in Europe, a growth of 27.5%.

Andrew Brown, an IDC analyst, said, “The healthy double-digit growth of the handheld market in both the fourth quarter 2003 and for 2003 overall suggests that by pricing aggressively and offering attractive bundles such as GPS navigation systems it is possible for vendors to stimulate growth in the handheld market by creating demand through innovative marketing.”

Individual Company Results

HP’s sales increased sharply during the quarter, giving the company the top spot. It shipped 355,000 iPAQs for 37% of the market.

IDC senior analyst Tim Mui said: “A consumer market drawn to attractive low-cost Pocket PC offerings and a renewed interest in mobile solutions from large and medium enterprises helped Pocket PC devices to overtake Palm OS-based products in 2003.”

palmOne’s European shipments declined during the last quarter. It shipped 287,000 handhelds for a 30% market share. It still held on to the top spot for the whole year, but had its third annual decline in shipments in a row.

Sony shipped 76,000 units to Europe during the final quarter of 2003, giving it about 8% of the market. Like palmOne, Sony’s number of units shipped was lower than the same quarter the previous year.

IDC’s report stated that “Sony has been unable to build significantly on its strong entry into the handheld space. Part of this is due to the lack of a complete retail presence throughout Europe, but also because of Sony’s focus on its high-end devices, while in reality its more basic models are more popular with consumers. Over 80 per cent of its sales came from two entry-level models, the TJ25 and TJ35, introduced to address the Christmas retail market.”

Equivalent figures for the U.S. and worldwide are expected in the coming days.

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