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Linux mobile share flat, but primed for growth

Feb 10, 2008 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Worldwide Linux mobile device market share remained flat at five percent in 4Q 2007, says a Canalys report on mobile phones. Yet the study also says that signs point to future growth for Linux phones.

According to the market research firm, which looked at “converged devices,” including both smartphones and wireless handhelds such as RIM's Blackberry,
the Blackberry took top honors in the U.S market in the fourth quarter. RIM won 42 percent market share, according to Canalys, compared to Apple at 27 percent, Windows Mobile at 21 percent, and Palm at a nine percent. Linux, apparently was so far behind it didn't even deserve a mention.

Linux did show up, however, in the worldwide report. Here, Symbian dominated with a 65 percent market share, compared to Microsoft's 12 percent, RIM's 11 percent, Apple's seven percent, and Linux's five percent.

Stated Canalys analyst Rachel Lashford, “The mobile Linux opportunity remains just that — an opportunity. Total Linux-based phone shipments in 2007 were almost flat on 2006. There is still too much fragmentation and not enough momentum.”

The study notes that “the maturity of the other mobile operating systems puts them a long way ahead” of mobile Linux, but goes on to say that Mobile Linux “can have a big part to play” in what it considers to be a rosy future for the mobile device market. Noting trends such as the Google Android project and Nokia's pending acquisition of Linux phone stack vendor Trolltech, Lashford added that Linux will account for a “significant proportion of mobile phone shipments within the next few years.”

Worldwide converged device market
Source: Canalsys

During Q4 2007, more than 35.5 million “converged” mobile devices were sold worldwide, as detailed in the chart above. This comprised a 72 percent gain over Q4 2006, making this one of the fastest-growing segments of the technology industry. Shipments for the year overall were up 60 percent, for a total of 115 million, Canalsys says.

The vendor with the clearest momentum was Apple, whose iPhone (pictured above) outsold all Windows Mobile devices combined in the U.S. last quarter. Apple moved 2.3 million iPhones worldwide during Q4, giving it 6.5 percent share, despite the fact that the iPhone only began sales outside the U.S. midway through the quarter. The iPhone was released in the U.K., France and Germany in November, about five months after it launched in the U.S., and it has yet to launch in Asia.

According to Canalsys analyst Pete Cunningham, Apple “has sent a wakeup call to the market leaders. What it must demonstrate now is that it can build a sustainable business in the converged device space, expanding its coverage and product portfolio.”

For the full year 2007, as in 2006, the Asia Pacific region was the biggest in volume terms, representing 47.9 million units compared to EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) at 45.9 million. North America trailed with only 20.9 million sales, but that represented the largest percentage increase worldwide, approximately double the total of 2006. Despite ranking in fourth place in the Asian market, Motorola “has seen its Linux-based smart phone shipments in the region fall 28 percent from their high in 2006,” says the study.

The analysis of the Asian Linux market appears to gibe with several other recent studies. For example, last month Research and Markets released a study saying that the market share for mobile Linux in Asia was flat, but would increase in 2008. In November, a CCID Consulting study reported that in China, Linux's share of smartphone sales declined from about 30 percent at year-end 2006 to a little over 25 percent as of 3Q 2007, largely due to weakening volumes for Motorola smartphones.

Further information

Rather than being extracted from a single report, the numbers above apparently are part of Canalsys' ongoing “Smart Mobile Device Analysis Worldwide” service. More information is available from the company's website, here.

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