Palm OS is Hot Again

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Despite what you may have heard, the death of Palm OS has been greatly exaggerated. According to the latest industry statistics, Palm OS continues to dominate the handheld market, and it’s not just hanging on to existing marketshare, it’s growing.

Over the last eight weeks alone, Palm OS retail unit share of the market has increased by more than 10 percentage points, to 87.2 percent of the U.S. market, (NPDTechworld, Weekly U.S. Retail Data, February 17 to April 7, 2002). And it’s not just in the U.S., Palm OS also appears to be recovering European marketshare it lost in 2001 to Pocket PC. In its April 2002 Mobile Device Market Overview, Canalys reported that Palm OS remains the leading mobile device software in Europe, with its marketshare having risen from 31 percent in the fall of 2001 to 43 percent in the first quarter of 2002.

Also, Palm OS is leading the way in the enterprise market. According to Gartner Dataquest, Palm OS licensees accounted for more than half of all handhelds sold to enterprises worldwide, compared to 32 percent for Pocket PC licensees, 1 percent for Symbian and 16 percent for other operating systems.

And despite all of the talk about Stinger smartphones and Pocket PC Phone Edition, PalmSource, Inc., the Palm OS subsidiary of Palm, Inc. that licenses the Palm Platform to companies, including Acer, HandEra, Handspring, Kyocera, Palm, Inc., Samsung, Sony, and Symbol Technologies, is also tops in converged device operating systems sales in the U.S., according to recent statistics from IDC. In its “Sync or Swim: Worldwide Smart Handheld Devices Forecast and Analysis,” IDC reports that in 2001, Palm OS had a 93.2 percent market share for U.S. converged handheld (smartphone) device shipments by operating system, thanks in part to the success of devices from Kyocera and Samsung.

Fueling this renewed growth in Palm Powered device sales is a string of innovative new mobile computing products from Palm OS licensees, including Handspring, Palm and Sony.

Handspring’s Treo 180 communicator is the first Palm Powered device to include a full keyboard and Handspring is expected to release a color version, likely under the Sprint name, this summer. Rumor has it that Handspring will also release a new Treo inspired organizer, thinner than the Treo communicator and with a color screen, but not wireless.

Palm, Inc. has also found success with its latest handhelds, the m515, m130 and i705. After stumbling in 2001 with the botched release of the m505, the m515 is selling briskly, and with its expandable, color m130, Palm has hit the sub-$300 sweetspot. Finally, Palm’s i705 offers wireless email and Web access.

Sony also broke new ground with the industry’s highest screen resolution in its sleek multimedia-enabled Clie NR-70 series handhelds.

“These numbers validate our business momentum and the fact that we are executing on our strategy,” said David Nagel, CEO of PalmSource, a subsidiary of Palm, Inc., “Our goal, to drive flexible innovation in mobile computing while maintaining the ease of use of the Palm OS, is clearly resonating with individual buyers as well as with business enterprises. Users continue to prefer Palm OS for value, for usability, for battery life, for reliability and for the enormous range and diversity of 3rd party software, accessories and content.”

Later this year we’ll see more developments from Palm OS licensees as devices running Palm OS 5 hit the market. In addition to supporting ARM-compliant processors from Intel, Motorola and Texas Instruments, Palm OS 5 offers enhanced multimedia capabilities, additional security options and expandsed support for wireless connections, while maintaining compatibility with existing software.

So it appears that Palm has weathered the storm, surviving the most volatile year to date in the history of handheld computers, despite what you may have heard.

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