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The latest data on European PDA sales
November 2, 2001 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The latest data on European PDA sales is available and it's a big surprise. In reverse order. 3rd place - Microsoft, 2nd Place - Palm, 1st place Symbian. Symbian? [more inside]
posted by nedrichards (21 comments total)

This is all to do with the new Nokia 9210 smartphone (soon to be released in the US as the 9290). It's a mobile phone and PDA in one sweet, colour screened package. It's insanely desirable, apparently loads of others thought so too. This is interesting because historically Europe has been a very different PDA marketplace to the USA and with the collapse of Psion's PDA business everybody thought that Palm and Microsoft would muscle in. It seems that the other Psion licensees had different ideas. The Symbian 6 operating system is a joy to use, I wonder if this'll make any impact in America. You can download a PC emulator if you want to give it a go.
posted by nedrichards at 10:48 AM on November 2, 2001

That James Bond thing is the number one selling phone in the EU? I don't see it being a big seller in the US, given the saturation in the market of handspring phones, blackberry RIMs, and every other connected PDA available.
posted by mathowie at 10:51 AM on November 2, 2001

Not to be confused with Sybian. Very different.
posted by jjg at 10:54 AM on November 2, 2001

It's the number one selling smartphone, which is basically a PDA and a mobile in a long term consensual relationship. What is known to PDA posers as a 'one box solution'. The number one selling phone is probably the Nokia 3110.

I would warn that until you've actually used/watched someone else use in awe, then you don't realise the coolness/usefulness of it. I'd also be interested to see how Nokia's qulaity marketing team do agianst the RIM's, Handsprings or HP's. Should be interesting.
posted by nedrichards at 11:09 AM on November 2, 2001

Here's something I've never understood about these all-in-one devices: One thing I see people doing all the time is reading information from their PDA into a cell phone, or putting into their PDA information they're getting from their cell phone. How can you do this when both are the same device?
posted by jjg at 11:27 AM on November 2, 2001

Latest data? The article is dated in January of this year.

I have a friend who works for Symbian, and I have seen some of the pre-production items. They are cool.
posted by terrapin at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2001

mathowie: the European market has its single GSM standard and fairly cheap mobile rates, which means that there's never really been much demand for the mix-and-matchers (mobile phone and RIM pager), or supply of US-orientated convergence devices such as the VisorPhone. Nokia's Communicator series has been around in different incarnations for a good few years now, and has the leap on everything else: even the Handspring Treo. Especially while 3G is still... well, still.
posted by holgate at 12:42 PM on November 2, 2001

terrapin: No. The article is dated for today. It's a british news site with British times thus 1/11/01 is 1st of November 2001 not 11th January 2001. And yes, some of the technical preview stuff they've shown is ultar-cool. I particularly liked the Sanyo one.
posted by nedrichards at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2001

Symbian is, in the main, the outgrowth of Psion, though Nokia and Motorola are among the partners. The Psion devices have been popular for quite some time, especially in the UK. The EPOC operating system beats the living daylights out WINCE, period; is much more sophisticated and much flexible to program for than PalmOS (you can use OPL [the native language], C/C++, or Java) without equal performance. Symbian has also been working the PDA/Internet intersection for a while. Gates is not excited about Symbian.

holgate's remark about GSM is on the money. It's hilarious to see that certain lessons go unlearned. The telephone network worked and grew solidly because it was a monopoly. Internet protocols are a monopoly, thankfully, allowing everyone to see the same things (except MSN on occasion). Once you get into the world of competing standards you're so often hosed. If the US had gone all GSM from the get go, the vast majority of the US could use any phone they desired with any company they wished in most any part of the world. Notably, Cingular has made the decision to switch to all GSM.

(Flame thrower shields are up!)
posted by mmarcos at 2:46 PM on November 2, 2001

Monopolies can be great. Abusing the monopoly and hurting several other markets is bad.

Then again, the Gates Foundation is good.
posted by jragon at 2:51 PM on November 2, 2001

jragon, completely agree, it can be bad. Your comment has also led me to point out something I should have made clearer: the two example monopolies I mentioned are monopolies of standards, which allow private enterprises to compete on the merits of their products.

(Or the extent of worldwide market penetration of the OS, whichever comes first!)
posted by mmarcos at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2001

> How can you do this when both are the same device?

Use a hands free kit.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:14 PM on November 2, 2001

Let's get personal: I love my iPaq! Anyone else use a PDA for daily life? Which one/s? Why?
posted by davidmsc at 6:56 PM on November 2, 2001

My psion series 7. It's smaller than the smallest sub notebook but faster than a speeding bullet! It's got a proper keyboard, all the 'instant on' functionality of an EPOC PDA with the excellent MS Word lite word processor. The batterys last for 8 hours between recharges.

For a student like me it's vital. It lives silently next to me in the library all day, ready to take down anything, any note, any mefi posting. Oh, and it runs Opera for LoFi MeFi fun!
posted by nedrichards at 3:22 AM on November 3, 2001

My Psion 5mx. Almost as small as WINCE/Palms, but with a keyboard I can touch type on. And all the cool Psion series 7 stuff as well.
posted by mmarcos at 4:47 AM on November 3, 2001

JJG: I can't say how it's done with Nokia's phone, but with the Kyocera PDA/phone combo (which has a built-in Palm) the phone has a speaker-phone mode so that you can use it while holding it away from your head. As a result you can actually reasonably use it as a phone and PDA simultaneously.

MMarcos, all the people who believe that the US should have mandated GSM seem to miss the fact that out of the chaos of the US system, CDMA emerged as a vastly superior air interface to the TDMA which GSM uses, and that GSM 3G is switching to a CDMA air interface. If the US had done what you say, GSM 3G would also use TDMA and would be quite a lot inferior to what it will actually be, because CDMA would never have had the opportunity to demonstrate its feasibility and superiority on the market. (Especially since Ericsson, one of the prime supporters of GSM, fought against CDMA both technically and legally and, fortunately, lost both fights.) So the GSM standard will be significantly improved by adopting something which was created in the US only because the US did not mandate GSM. Am I the only person who sees the irony in that?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:24 AM on November 3, 2001

Good point, Steven. I grant it is ironic, the interface is superior, but the path to it was inefficient. It would have been better for consumers (travelling salesmen!) and cell companies and networks to deal with that issue than to deal with the issue of "sorry, my cell phone won't work in that part of the country" for, how long now? The "invisible hand" must be quite tired of dealing with this one by now.

[You know I was always on the lookout for a promotional deal from cos like Sprint or AT&T where a new account user would be elegible for a trip overseas... where the phone can't be used!]
posted by mmarcos at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2001

posted by terrapin at 9:52 AM on November 3, 2001

As an engineer, I'm not too interested in the efficiency of paths. I'm interested in results, and the result of the US approach was superior to the result of the European result. The US let the market decide; Europe declared a winner and outlawed all the other competitors.

And Europe is now adopting the US winner because the US winner was better.

As to the problem of non-portability, that was mostly a matter of working out roaming agreements. Even before the development of the four nationwide cell systems, anyone with an 800 MHz phone could pretty much roam anywhere, and anyone with a dual-band 1900 MHz phone also could do so. At least with regards to IS-95, AMPS compatibility is mandated for 800 MHz phones. That was in from the very beginning.

Now that the four nationwide networks are available, roaming problems are mostly an issue of the fact that the US has a much lower population density than Europe does. A high population density makes buildout more economically easy. But all the major metropolitan areas in the US are now served by at least four providers, and often as many as seven. It's not really an issue any longer -- except, ironically, for GSM users.

In any case, even if the US had adopted GSM our phones would still not have been portable overseas. We use 800 MHz and 1900 MHz (GSM is 1900 only; IS-136 and CDMA and AMPS all also use 800 MHz); the Europeans use 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. Even US GSM phones can't be used in Europe because of the frequency mismatch. (In the US the 1800 MHz band was already allocated for military use and they had a huge investment in equipment which would have to have been scrapped and replaced if that band were yielded to private use.)

There were a couple of tri-band GSM phones which supported 800, 900 and 1900 MHz sold in the US which could, after a fashion, be used in Europe, but even then roaming agreements weren't in place and you usually had to buy a local SIM card. Paradise wouldn't have been there even if the US had mandated GSM.

The other side of that coin is that multi-band and multi-mode phones are becoming easier and easier to implement. Qualcomm has already announced a chipset which will be able to support AMPS, IS-95 CDMA, CDMA 2K, and GSM 2G, and phones built from it and using the right RF electronics would be able to work anywhere (though still often requiring a local sim-card). Once the Europeans finally settle on the spec for WCDMA (GSM 3G) you'll probably see multimode phones which also support that. (It's actually easier to add that than it was GSM 2G because it's more similar to IS-95/CDMA2K.) As time goes on the handset makers will make differing infrastructure standards largely irrelevant.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2001

I don't think that roaming will be a problem...

Not with Vodafone owning 45% of Verizon wireless and T-Mobile owning 100% of Voicestream. With their Eurocall tariff Vodafone have already promoted roaming (by reducing the price from £1.5 a minute to 60p a minute on networks they own).

In todays worldwide capitalist marketplace it's the multinationals that have the most to gain from cross boarder roaming. Whilst the US may have the best tech they don't have a Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile or Nokia. Consistent monopolies are good for building big powerful multinationals.

Oh, and it's not the technology, but what you do with it that counts! (or at least that's what my girlfriend told me)
posted by nedrichards at 3:25 AM on November 4, 2001

Europe declared a winner and outlawed all the other competitors

No, Europe adopted a common standard and standards make it easier and cheaper to roll out technology, driving uptake. Having the best technology is irrelevant if people can't afford the product or use it in the way they want.
posted by Summer at 3:38 AM on November 4, 2001

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