Shipments of handheld mobile devices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia soared 62 percent in the first quarter of 2004 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to

Total shipments in the first quarter were 2.5 million units, compared to 1.5 million the year before, according to the UK market research group. The report focuses on multi-function mobile devices such as PDAs and smart phones (excluding normal mobiles).

Nokia remained the lead supplier of mobiles in the region, increasing shipments by 89 percent to 1.2 million - 48.4 percent of the market. It was followed by HP with 251,530 shipments (10.2 percent) and PalmOne with 250,310 (10.1 percent). Sony Ericsson was fourth with 175,450 units, 7.1 percent. And Siemens fifth with 82,970 units, 3.4 percent.

Demand was strongest for smart phones, with shipments up 83 percent to 1.6 million. Symbian phones accounted for 1.5 million of these - 91.2 percent of the market. Microsoft was second with 7.8 percent and PalmSource third with 1.0 percent

Handhelds were up 33 percent in the first quarter to 852,570 compared to a year earlier. HP accounted for 29.5 percent of the market. Second was PalmOne (27.4 percent); third, RIM (8.0 percent); and fourth, Dell with 5.1 percent. Microsoft was the leading OS supplier for handhelds, with 57.1 percent of the market. Then Palm with 32.3 percent.

"We expect the market for mobile devices to continue its strong growth curve," said Canalys analyst Rachel Lashford. "Growth will come not only from the introduction of new products but also a shift from individuals mostly buying handhelds to more and more corporations buying these devices for their mobile employees."

The line between voice-centric and data-centric devices will continue to blur, Lashford said, especially with the launch of products such as Motorola new MPx smart phones.