Personal digital assistants based on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system now account for 30 per cent of the worldwide PDA market compared to 48.6 per cent for PalmSource's market-leading Palm OS, according to research released by Dataquest, a unit of research company Gartner.
Pocket PC-based handheld computing systems reached the 30 per cent market share level in the third quarter of 2002, up from a 16.2 per cent share in the third quarter last year, according to Dataquest figures.
Worldwide sales of PDAs in the third quarter of 2002 reached 2.64 million, 0.9 per cent up on the 2.61 million sold in the equivalent quarter last year.
Palm remains the dominant vendor with 809,000 sales, representing a market share of 30.6 per cent, more than double its nearest rival, HP, whose 382,000 unit sales represented a 14.4 per cent market share.
Sony, Toshiba and Handspring completed the list of the top five vendors, which between them hold over two-thirds of the market.
The gain of the Pocket PC OS against Palm was helped by the strong impact made by Toshiba in the market. From a trickle of sales in the third quarter last year, Toshiba has sold 144,000 PDAs this year to garner a 5.5 per cent share.
A further challenge to Palm's leadership is expected when Dell Computer releases a Pocket PC-based PDA later this year, Dataquest said.
"After a slow but steady decline, the Palm OS market share appears to have stabilised, but new challenges are on the horizon," Dataquest said in a statement. "Much more competitive pricing from Pocket PC vendors beginning in the fourth quarter of 2002 will undoubtedly stimulate growth in Pocket PC shipments and allow Palm less breathing room. Dell and Toshiba appear ready to lead this battle."
Along with Dell and Toshiba, HP, Casio Computer and NEC are the major Pocket PC licensees.
Major players in the Palm OS camp include Palm, Handspring, Sony, Kyocera and Samsung Electronics.
Acer sells both Palm OS and Pocket PC-based PDAs, while Sharp's Zaurus PDA runs a version of the Linux OS.