According to new research from Dataquest, 3Com is more than holding its own against the onset of Windows CE, in a handheld PC market that is finally taking off.
More than one million 3Com Palm Pilot units were shipped in 1997, up 183 per cent from 1996. 3Com saw its market share grow to 63 per cent of the 'standard handheld' market, up from 51.7 per cent a year earlier.
Windows CE based handheld PCs from a wide range of vendors together accounted for only 26 per cent of sales, Dataquest estimates. Within the Windows CE marketplace, Hewlett Packard dominated with a 43 per cent share ? but its share of the total market, at 15 per cent, trails 3Com by a considerable distance.
The total market for handheld systems reached 2.4 million units in 1997, Dataquest estimates, up 65 per cent from 1996. Within this market, what Dataquest calls 'standard handhelds' (including the Palm Pilot, Windows CE devices and the Psion Series 5) accounted for most of the growth, totalling 1.6 million units.
Dataquest distinguishes a separate category of 'expandable organisers', which are devices with a proprietary operating system and few or no third party developers. Somewhat surprisingly, Psion?s Series 5 is counted as a standard handheld, while the company?s earlier systems are included in the expandable organiser category. The latter category is dominated by Sharp with a 56 per cent market share. Sharp has itself recently launched a Windows CE device, further confusing the categories.
?[The Palm Pilot] matched the form factor with the appropriate applications and functionality," said Dataquest analyst Mike McGuire, explaining the success of the small, keyboardless device. However, new, Windows CE based 'palm-sized PCs' from vendors such as Casio closely mimic the form factor and functionality of the Palm Pilot.
McGuire said Windows CE was likely to do better now it is available one machines in the smaller, Palm Pilot-like form factor. He also expects larger, subnotebook-style Windows CE devices to take off by the end of the year.
He added that the traditional handheld PC form factor - devices measuring about four by seven inches and weighing about one pound, are likely to be ?squeezed out? in the long term, between the smaller, keyboardless Palm Pilot-style systems and larger, full function devices such as the NEC Mobile Pro.
?They don?t quite fit in your pocket, and on the other hand, the applications like [Pocket] Word and Excel can?t really be used with such a small keyboard," said McGuire.
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