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Global Handheld Computer Shipments Slip

Device makers fail to entice big-spending 'enterprise' customers.
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Global handheld computer shipments slipped 9.1% in 2002, as device makers failed to entice so-called enterprise customers, according to technology research firm Gartner Dataquest.

While the consumer market accounts for 70% of the market for organizers and newer wireless devices, enterprise markets, or businesses that make bulk purchases, have been targeted as the main area of growth for the major manufacturers.

"The more lucrative enterprise market has been stagnant because of poor economic conditions and a perception that PDAs are not yet capable of delivering sufficient returns on investment," said Gartner Dataquest analyst Todd Kort in a prepared statement. "The enterprise market is still another year away from embracing PDAs."

That's bad news for

Palm

(PALM)

and

Microsoft

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, which are toe-to-toe in a race to court business users. Both companies are betting that their next-generation devices will help corporate customers access business data wirelessly.

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Palm, which saw its global market share slip to 36.8%, saw shipments tank 12.2% to 4.4 million units in 2002. In the U.S., Palm shipments fell 10.4% to 2.75 million units, giving it a 46% market share in the country, slightly behind last year's share of the market.

Hewlett-Packard

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, which sells handhelds based on a Microsoft operating system, also saw its share clipped to 13.5%, with global shipments of its Ipaq handheld plunging 27.2% to 1.6 million units.

It wasn't all bad news:

Sony

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and Toshiba emerged as big winners in 2002, with each seeing rises in business. Toshiba, which barely tracked last year, snapped off a 3.7% global market share.

Sony, the third-largest global handheld maker, saw shipments jump 163.2% to 1.33 million units, giving it an 11% share of the world market. In the U.S., where sales of Sony's Clie handheld grew 351.8%, it is the second-largest PDA company, behind Palm. Sony manufactures handhelds based on the Palm operating system and primarily courts the consumer market.

Palm OS devices made by Palm, Sony, Handspring and 11 other companies that purchased a license accounted for 55.2% of devices shipped, or 6.7 million units last year, compared with Microsoft's 25.7% share of all devices shipped.