The Western European handheld device market experienced its first annual growth in unit shipments since 2000. According to IDC's latest preliminary data, a strong fourth quarter boosted shipments to a record 2.6 million units in 2003, representing growth of 27.5%. Shipments for handhelds in Western Europe during 4Q03 grew to 958,000 units, a growth of 38% compared to the same period last year.
"Last quarter saw Pocket PC vendors reap the rewards of an expanded retail presence, in-store marketing, and targeted promotions such as GPS and camera bundles," said Senior Analyst Tim Mui. "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."
"The healthy double-digit growth of the handheld market in both 4Q03 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," said Andrew Brown, program manager for mobile devices at IDC.
HP: With a revamped portfolio of Pocket PC 2003 devices launched last summer, HP had the product breadth to target all market segments during 4Q03. By exploiting its image as the high-end PDA brand and perceived position as the technology leader in mobile enterprise solutions, HP was able to grow its market share to 37%. HP was also strongly positioned with its 1930 and 1940 iPaqs, with offers in some countries at below €300, which increased the vendor's share in retail.
Palm: Although 4Q03 saw Palm's market share decrease to 30%, the segment's pioneer remained the leading vendor for 2003 overall. Despite having the best-selling handheld model in the low-end Palm Zire, 2003 was Palm's third consecutive year of annual decline in shipments.
Medion: The German low-cost computing vendor has performed extremely well since it entered the handheld market last year. With the majority of devices selling through German Aldi stores, IDC believes Medion will find it difficult to sustain its current level of growth, unless it expands to new channels.
Sony: With shipments of 76,130 units, the consumer giant experienced a 3.5% decline in shipments during 4Q03 compared to the same period last year. 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% of its sales came from two entry-level models, the TJ25 and TJ35, introduced to address the Christmas retail market. The higher-priced UX50 clamshell product was introduced in 4Q03 to offer differentiation in the retail market.
Dell: With a limited mobile enterprise solutions offering and no retail presence, Dell will find it more difficult to compete with HP in handhelds than it currently does in PCs. Nevertheless, Dell continued to effectively utilize its strong notebook portfolio to offer bundled PDA deals to customers throughout Europe.