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2/14/2006
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BlackBerry Use Up, Despite Legal Trouble

The E-mail device accounted for 21% of the record 15 million personal digital assistants shipped last year, Gartner said.

Research In Motion Inc.'s BlackBerry led the global market for data-centric handheld computers last year, despite a high-profiled patent-infringement lawsuit, a research firm said Monday.

The Canadian firm's email device accounted for 21.4 percent of the record 14.9 million personal digital assistants shipped last year, Gartner Inc. said. The total number of shipments was 19 percent higher than in 2004, and topped the previous record of 13.2 million PDAs in 2001.

The BlackBerry became the leading PDA worldwide last year, as the number shipments jumped almost 47 percent over the previous year, despite RIM's legal battle with patent-holding company NTP Inc. The case, which is pending, could lead to a court-ordered shutdown of RIM's BlackBerry service in the United States. However, experts believe the chances are slim, and the company says it has a workaround ready to replace the technology in question.

The BlackBerry shipments in the report do not include 858,000 BlackBerry smartphones shipped last year, Gartner said. Those units are classified differently because of their voice-centric design.

"RIM does not appear to be losing much momentum despite its legal problems and the threat of an injunction," Gartner analyst Todd Kort said in a statement. "Generally, BlackBerry users are staying put because of the high cost of switching, lack of suitable alternative devices, and the low probability of BlackBerry service being shut down."

The remaining top three vendors, which collectively account for more than half of the market, each experienced a drop in shipments. Palm Inc. plummeted by almost 26 percent to a market share of 18.6 percent, and Hewlett-Packard Co. fell 15 percent to a slightly more than 15 percent share.

The results for Palm excluded its Treo smartphone shipments of 1.95 million units in 2005. The Treo is expected to cannibalize Palm's PDA sales, surpassing the latter this year, Gartner said.

Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE was the leading PDA operating system last year. The OS ran more than 7 million PDAs, up 33 percent from 2004. Shipments of the Palm OS fell 34 percent to nearly 3 million units in 2005.

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