Gartner: Microsoft catches up to Palm in PDA OS market

Gartner: Microsoft catches up to Palm in PDA OS market

Most personal digital assistant (PDA) users are introduced to the device through the Palm operating system, but Microsoft's Windows CE .Net family has pulled into a virtual tie with the pioneering PDA operating system (OS), according to first-quarter market share information from Gartner.

PDA vendors shipped 1.11 million units with the Palm OS in the first quarter, down 21 per cent from the first quarter of 2003, principal analyst with Gartner, Todd Kort, said.

Shipments of Windows devices increased 4.6 per cent from last year's first quarter to 1.10 million units.

The first quarter results were exacerbated by anticipation for PalmOne's new Zire devices, causing many would-be purchasers to wait until the new PDAs were introduced this week, Kort said. But the growth of Windows-based PDAs reflected the ascent of the corporate PDA market and the decline of the consumer PDA market.

"Microsoft just has a stronger story," Kort said.

Just about every enterprise had developers who had created applications for the desktop Windows operating system, and the programming tools for the Pocket PC version of Windows CE were very similar to the desktop programming tools, he said.

Microsoft also bundled Outlook, its email software, with every version of Pocket PC, Kort said.

Outlook was used by a wide number of corporations as email client software.

PalmOne and PalmSource had done a decent job of connecting into the enterprise world, but Microsoft along with Pocket PC vendors HP and Dell simply had too much market power among business customers, Kort said.

The Palm OS has also been hurt by the reluctance of casual PDA users to upgrade to some of the newer PalmOne devices, Kort said.

New cell phones were coming out on the market with personal information management (PIM) features that rival low-end PDAs, and many consumers who needed a PDA solely for the PIM features would rather upgrade to a relatively inexpensive device with voice capability, he said.

Gartner said the overall PDA market fell 4.6 per cent compared to last year's first quarter, reflecting a smaller decline than announced by market researcher IDC last week.

Gartner includes the BlackBerry device made by Research in Motion (RIM) in its results, and IDC does not.

Wireless email devices such as the BlackBerry would help spur growth in the second half of the year, Kort said.

Mobile phone companies such as Nokia and Motorola as well as PalmSource have all licensed RIM's e-mail software for their cell phones.

PalmOne is also working with RIM rival, Good Technology, to bring wireless email capability to the popular Treo 600 smart phone.

New phones were expected later this year from all those companies, Kort said.

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