Microsoft claims to have struck its first serious blow against rival handheld device vendor 3Com in Europe and is confident of a bouyant future for its Windows CE operating system in the region.
As the software giant kicked off its Windows CE Developers Conference in Denver Colorado on Monday, it claimed that Windows CE based handheld companions such as Compaq's Aero were outselling Palm Pilots by up to three to one in France and Germany.
The figures, although inconclusive having been based on the estimates of local retailers, will nonetheless send a warning to 3Com, which, according to analysts IDC, enjoyed a 44.9 per cent share of the handheld device market in France during the first half of last year.
Jonathan Roberts, Microsoft's Windows CE general manager, said that European consumers were wooed by the colour display of CE devices rather than the Palm Pilot's black and white screen.
"We've seen a very fast uptake in Europe of colour palm PCs. It seems in the minds of our customers to be a big differentiator," he explained.
And Microsoft is confident of continued success in the European market, following the rapid uptake of Compaq's Aero - which sold over 10,000 units in Europe in its first two weeks - and the arrival of Hewlett-Packard's Jornada and Casio's E100 Windows CE devices.
Roberts said: "In many ways I think Europe can be a bigger market than the US. In Europe, mobile workers are likely to be on the road more than half the time and take shorter trips than their American counterparts. That makes for a very good market for mobile products in general."
But Microsoft also claims that its share of the worldwide CE based handheld companion market will grow rapidly over the next two years.
Harel Kodesh, vice president of Microsoft's productivity appliance division, attested: "I believe next year, and analysts agree, that we'll reach parity with Palm. And from then on Windows CE is going to be the standard in the hand held market, especially vertical markets such as healthcare and sales force automation."
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