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Survey says sales of PDAs shot up 18.4% last year

Microsoft gains edge as maker of operating systems

NEW YORK -- Global shipments of hand-held computers rose 18.4 percent to 17.7 million in 2006, with Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry showing strong growth, but Palm Inc. suffering a steep decline in sales and market share, Gartner Inc. reported yesterday.

In terms of operating systems for personal digital assistants, shipments of devices based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows platform grew by 38.8 percent to nearly 10 million. Those shipments, by multiple makers of Windows-based devices, increased Microsoft's market share to 56.1 percent, up from 47.9 percent in 2005, the research company said.

BlackBerry retained the top spot for PDA devices shipped, growing 10 percent to 3.5 million for the year, but its market share slipped from 21.3 percent in 2005 to just a shade below 20 percent during 2006, Gartner said.

Palm saw PDA shipments slide by 29 percent to fewer than 2.8 million devices, its market share plummeting to 11.1 percent from the prior year's 18.5 percent.

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s shipments also declined in 2006, falling 24.1 percent to 2.3 million devices. Its market share fell by more than a third to 9.7 percent in contrast to the prior year's 15.1 percent.

Gartner said the overall increase in shipments of PDAs was driven by growing demand for wireless access to e-mail and the Internet.

The research company found that 60 percent of the devices shipped were equipped with cellular connectivity, up from 47 percent in 2005.

Compared with cellphones, PDAs remain a tiny market. Another market research company, IDC, recently reported that cellphone makers shipped more than 1 billion handsets for the first time in 2006, up 22.5 percent.