Generally, when Microsoft enters a new market, people expect the software giant to dominate. But that's not always been the case: Witness the Microsoft Network, which holds a very distant second place to America Online, the juggernaut of online services. It's also not true in the realm of handheld computers, where 3Com's line of Palm devices continues to dominate Microsoft's Windows CE. And even though Windows CE is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years, most of that growth will come at the expense of other contenders, not Palm.
For example, in 1999, 3Com owns 54% of the handheld computer market, compared to only 8% for Windows CE. "Other handhelds" accounts for 38%. By 2003, Windows CE is expected to jump to 18% of the market, but 3Com should hold steady at 60%, while "others" drop to 22%. These figures, which come from a market study by independent research firm Computer Economics, aren't exactly good news for Windows CE.
"Look for Microsoft CE to gain more market share than Palm systems during the next five years, but expect 3Com to maintain its dominance in the handheld market," said Michael Erbschloe, the Director of Research at Computer Economics. "The number of handheld computers being shipped will \[also\] increase steadily during the next five years."
With Windows NT/2000 moving into the Embedded market and Windows 9x getting a new lease on life with a new Consumer Windows expected in 2000, it's hard to understand where Windows CE fits in. A relatively confusing array of incompatible hardware may very damn the product to niche status forever, especially given the market dominance by Palm