RIM and Fujitsu are amongst the biggest gainers in a mobile device business that is becoming increasingly dominated by regional favorites. Canalys reports that in the first quarter of 2004, smartphone shipments jumped 115 per cent, while traditional PDAs rose just 1 per cent. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa shipments of what Canalys calls smartphones and feature phones surpassed unit shipments of PDAs. In North America, the trend is in the same direction, but for now PDAs (59 per cent, down from 83 per cent) have the slight edge as phones increased from 10 per cent to 23 per cent.
The analyst firm notes however that no one company can boast a global hegemony. Nokia dominates EMEA with 48 per cent of the overall market and 73 per cent of the data phone market, but a relatively poor showing in the United States: with 25 per cent overall, it's in second place behind PalmOne. However PalmOne's predicament shows the importance of a global presence. Despite snaring 37 per cent of the overall market a weak showing outside the US saw it lose its lead over Nokia of a year ago. Canalys attributes success outside a regional base to tight relationships with the network operators, and cites RIM as a poster child. RIM buffed its product range and worked hard to establish a presence with European carriers; as a consequence it saw its units shipped jump by 300 per cent to take 6.4 per cent of the global market. Fujitsu saw an even bigger gain thanks to Symbian-powered devices in Asia, gaining over 500 per cent to take 6.1 per cent of the market. From a standing start, Motorola sold over 313,000 devices up from only 2,440 in the corresponding quarter of 2003.
HP showed good gains in North America thanks to GPS bundles of its iPaq handheld. The figures shed some light on why Sony pulled out of the US PDA market today. Without a strong business channel presence, the company had to rely on a weak consumer retail sector and saw its multimedia laurels stolen by ever-more sophisticated smartphones. Not surprisingly, Symbian-powered devices now account for over 90 per cent of the global smartphone or feature phone market. ®