The Unsung Platform

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Steve muses on the way most of the media ignore Symbian and trumpet Pocket PC, in the face of figures which (to him) seem completely the other way around.

Canalys released their worldwide sales figures for Q2 a month or so ago, but it was only while writing a news item for Palmtop User magazine that the trends and figures really hit home. Here's the piece (from the forthcoming issue 12, I'm sure the editor won't mind me posting this item here in exchange for the publicity...! ):

Canalys"Quarter two figures (2005) from Canalys show that smartphone sales have more than doubled since 2004, while traditional standalone handheld sales have fallen by 15%. Nokia continue as the runaway leader, with 55% of the smartphone/PDA market worldwide, thanks to big sales of their 3G 6630 and 6680 models, plus increasing demand for the 9300 and 9500. Despite the success of their Treo smartphones, Palm's market share fell below 10% for the first time, just managing to break the million sales mark worldwide in the quarter. RIM, with their proprietary Blackberry devices, achieved a creditable 7% market share, in third place in the overall standings. HP, with its focus on standalone Pocket PCs, saw sales fall by over 20%."

Now, HP, with its supposed all-conquering iPAQ range, plus Toshiba, Dell and the others, are all clumped in an 'Others' category right at the bottom of Canalys' sales table. HP's market share, for their entire range of Pocket PCs is less than 4%. Similarly, Palm, even with their bought-in Treo smartphones, have a market share of less than 10%, even though they're in second place in the table.

Who's in the lead? By a country mile? Nokia, of course, selling over six million smartphones and communicators in Q2, 2005. With the 6630 and 6680 being 'Feature pack 2' devices (with the corresponding increase in PDA functionality), and with demand for the 9300/9500 still very strong, Nokia's worldwide market share for 'smart' devices of all kinds is 55%, i.e. over half. I'd argue that these devices are all just as capable of being a PDA as anything else on the market.

And yet pick up any computing magazine and read its PDA roundups and reviews section. You'll see predominantly Palm and Pocket PC (now 'Windows Mobile') with nary a mention of anything Nokia or Symbian related. Even my beloved PDA Essentials (my main job) is by nature mainly Palm/PPC-biased, with the features that are produced without my involvement hardly ever giving Nokia a name check.

We're talking 55%, for goodness sake. Over half of all PDAs/smartphones sold across the entire world are made by Nokia and yet noone ever includes them in the right context. To see a device like the Nokia 6630 included in a general 'phone' roundup is good marketing by Nokia in one sense (at least they're there) but I can't help feeling that content writers across the world need to wake up to the market leader. Mobile computing? Try a Nokia 6630 or 6680. Not powerful enough? Try a Nokia 9300 or 9500. And they're all powered by Symbian OS.

These devices knock spots off anything in the Palm or Pocket PC world for real world use and judging from Canalys' figures I'd say that the buying public agree. I just wish both Symbian and Nokia got the recognition in this field that they deserve. If you're a journalist, or run a PDA web site or computing club, take another look at the figures I've quoted and consider whether you've been missing a rather large trick...