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3Com/Palm still market leader, but Windows CE sales growing faster

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Survey 3Com remains the leading vendor of palmtop computers, but Windows CE devices are finally showing signs of catching up. That's the picture of the world palmtop market, according to market researcher Dataquest's 1998 figures, released today. 3Com's Palm Computing subsidiary took 40.1 per cent of the palmtop market in 1998, down from 41.2 per cent in the previous year. Sharp came in at number two, with a 20.8 per cent market share, barely different from the 20 per cent Dataquest recorded in 1997. Psion's market share also fell over the 12-month period, from 16.1 per cent to 13 per cent. Those companies' shares were lost primarily to Philips and NEC, whose shares rose from 2.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent to 4.3 per cent respectively. However, the unit shipment figures tell a slightly different story. The market as a whole grew 61.4 per cent to 3.9 million units. 3Com shipped some 1.6 million Palm devices a just-below-par increase of 57.1 per cent. The big increases came from Windows CE vendors. Sharp some 67.4 per more devices in 1998 over 1997, jumping from 495,000 units to 828,000. Philips sold 177,000 Ninos last year, compared to just 71,000 in 1997, an increase of 150.4 per cent. NEC achieved growth of 1004.5 per cent, as its shipments rose from a measly 15,000 in 1997 to 170,000 last year. Add in HP's rather humdrum figures -- sales went up from 241,000 units to 270,000, an increase of 12.1 per cent; Dataquest blames the company's transition from DOS to Windows CE -- and Dataquest's Others, which includes the likes of Compaq and Casio, also Windows CE vendors, and you find the Windows CE shipments increased almost 80 per cent overall, compared to 57.1 per cent for Palm and 30.9 per cent for Psion. Even knocking down the CE figure a little to account for HP's DOS-based devices sales, and non-CE Others, and it's still some way ahead of Palm's growth. Still, Dataquest warned that the game is far from over for 3Com. It calculated that the majority of the company's sales were to new users, increasing the platform's overall userbase and making it more attractive to ISVs. The researcher based its assumption on the number of new users on the fact that during the period, Palm did little to change one year's offerings from the next's -- so few of the extra sales were upgrades, it reasoned. That contrasts with the introduction of colour screens, more storage capacity and new versions of Windows CE, suggesting, perhaps, that upgrades counted for a greater percentage of CE device sales than Palm sales. ®

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