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Smart phones pick up in Europe

Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Orange help the overall handheld market jump by 125 percent from last year, according to new figures. But Palm is starting to lose out.

Smart phones are on track to outsell conventional handheld computers this year in the European region, according to a new study, which also found that Palm has fallen to third place there for mobile operating systems.

Research firm Canalys found that the Europe, Middle East and Africa market for all handhelds grew by 125 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period a year ago. Most of this growth was due to voice-oriented handsets that pack handheld computer features, such as the new Sony Ericsson P800, which uses the Symbian OS, as well more vendors selling devices powered by Microsoft's Windows CE operating system.

Voice-oriented devices running on the Symbian OS led the pack; shipments totaled 807,270 units in the quarter, eight times more than the same quarter last year. Nokia, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and Orange are among the companies that use Symbian.

Meanwhile, companies such as Hewlett-Packard and newcomers such as Dell Computer shipped a total of 370,530 Windows CE-based devices for the quarter, up 62 percent from the same period last year. Most of them--about 308,000--were data-oriented devices.

About 284,840 Palm OS-powered devices shipped in the quarter, down 3 percent from last year, although Canalys expects that Palm's sales will increase following the launch of new Tungsten and Zire models this week.

"The sheer number of vendors using Windows CE in their devices means that Palm OS is now in third place" in the Europe, Middle East and Africa market, analyst Andy Buss said in a statement.

Palm is facing increasing competition from a growing number of Windows CE vendors, but also from a greater variety of mobile devices--for example, the latest batch of smart phones run the gamut from consumer-oriented camera phones to more business-oriented devices.

Palm was still the largest individual vendor of data-centric handhelds, which gave it 15 percent of the overall handheld market. Nokia was the overall leader at 42 percent. Sony Ericsson took 12 percent of the overall market, followed by HP with 11 percent and Orange with 4 percent, selling its new HTC-manufactured Sound, Pictures, Video (SPV) smart phone.

The launch of Sony Ericsson's P800 was good news for the Symbian OS, Canalys said. "It is important for Symbian that Nokia has now been joined by another vendor shipping in large quantities," said Canalys director and senior analyst Chris Jones.

ZDNet UK's Matthew Broersma reported from London .