Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

Summary: Android's fourth quarter explosive growth and Apple's marketshare dip makes for a good headline - but what do the numbers really mean?

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Sometimes, a number looks so good in a headline that the fine print behind that number can get lost in the story itself.

Case in point: A report this morning by Strategy Analytics put the spotlight on Android-based tablets in a way that highlighted amazing growth and prompted bloggers to send out a "Watch Out" warning to Apple and its iPad. After all, with Android seeing 2,000 percent growth and a "skyrocketing" market share from 2.3 percent in the last quarter to 21.6 percent in the fourth quarter, Apple must be shaking in its boots, right?

Maybe not.

Certainly, Apple should be watching the growth of Android, which could get a boost when Google releases details of its latest version of the OS - called Honeycomb - at an event later this week. That OS will power the Motorola Xoom tablet, a darling of CES that is expected to become available in the next month or so. (Gallery)

But, the report's fourth quarter numbers - at least the way they're being portrayed - just don't settle well with me. Here's why:

  • The report lists "shipments" of these products, not "sales." Maybe I'm splitting hairs here but I can't help but wonder how many of those Android tablets - notably the Samsung Galaxy Tab - were actually sold to end users? We know from Apple's fourth quarter earnings call earlier this month that the company "sold" 7.3 million iPads.
  • The research firm lists the same number - 7.3 million - as shipments for Apple. For Android, it reports 2.1 million shipments, up from 100,000 shipments in the third quarter. There's your 2,000 percent gain.
  • Marketshare matters. For Apple, that number comes in at more than 75 percent for the fourth quarter and more than 84 percent for the year. Android's nearly 22 percent in the fourth quarter equates to just over 13 percent for the year.
  • In that same "Marketshare matters" camp, it's worth noting that Apple lost share from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, dipping from more than 95 percent to just over 75 percent. But what does that really say? When you're pretty much the only player in one quarter, it's a gimme that you're going to have nearly 100 percent of the marketshare. When one player comes in and sees any sort of traction, the market leader will certainly take a hit. The entire global market only saw shipments of 10 million units for the quarter - and Apple sold 7.3 million of them.

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that the tablet market is heating up - and I have no beef with the overall forecasts for 2011. Android will make some strong gains this year and Apple's momentum will continue to flourish - even if it loses some market share to Android.

Reports like the one that Strategy Analytics put out are important - with the right caveats. The report offers some insight into what's happening in the competitive market. As expected, Google gained some ground but Apple is still dominating. But that's where the story should end.

It's certainly not the kind of headline that sends sends a spark through the Google vs. Apple battlefield, is it?

Topics: Apple, Android, Google, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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17 comments
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  • Shipping = sales.

    Unless you believe that a "sold" unit hasn't been shipped (i.e. the inverse of your supposition in bullet #1). And... I have heard the same stupid argument made for MS products... i.e. when they "presell" versions of Windows and Office to their major vendors. In the end, if money is exchanged, its a SALE, and gets counted as one in our GDP. Whether it shipped, sold, shipped without being sold, sold without being shipped (?!?!) or whatever. It leaves the building, someone pays for it. Even if UPS is left holding the bag.... :)
    rock06r
    • And, there is no difference between your arse and that of a horse.

      NT
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

        @DonnieBoy Okay so rock06r said - rightly - that a shipped unit = a sold unit and all you can do is talk about his arse? THAT is your rebuttal? And you wonder why some here do not take you seriously.
        athynz
      • If there were no difference between "sold", and "shipped", they would have

        used the word "sold", as it sounds much better, and removes the ambiguity. But, in any case, "shipped" to a retailer, and "sold" to a customer can be very different things. But, there is also no difference between your arse and that of a horse either. Hey, I think you ARE a horse's arse.
        DonnieBoy
    • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

      @rock06r
      Wow, brilliant! Now what do you suppose happens when the said company goes to sell version 2 of the product to a vendor with a warehouse full of version 1?!?

      Please start posting like you have a basic understanding of business, the ignorance in your last post is painful to read.
      Kabcock
  • Between the Lines

    Don't worry, ZDNet. Apple pay you back anyway.
    Rigel.628
  • Sell through of the Tab is very very small

    For those that listened/read Samsung's analysts calls.<br><br>Very very small. The 2 local Verizon shops have yet to sell their first shipment and the Verizon mothership has sent them 4 shipments in the last 2 months. Channel stuffing in it's finest.

    REF: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/01/31/samsung-galaxy-tab-sales-actually-quite-small/
    Bruizer
    • Yes, someone that understands the difference between &quot;sold&quot; to an end user,

      and "shipped" to a retail location. You my friend, are NOT a horse's arse!!!!!!
      DonnieBoy
    • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

      @Bruizer The quote is inaccurate. The Samsung person said onward sales to consumers are very "smooth", not very "small".
      Xenia Onatopp
  • Thanks Sam. Android 3 is promising, but, we need to wait and see what the

    consumer uptake is. iPad is the current favorite, and iPad 2 is coming.
    DonnieBoy
  • I think the answer here is clear.

    Android in the tablet field is bound to be a success. Not everyone selling a given Android tablet however will be. Sort of like smart phones and Android. With everyone and their mothers selling Android phones Android will clearly be a success. That said if we are to compare success's then we need actual numbers. Sold to customers vs sold to vendors who are trying to sell to customers? Each number has it's meaning but you can't compare one to the other and come to any sensible conclusions. We should all agree that if numbers are to be compared they should be numbers that represent the SAME thing.

    Pagan jim
    anonymous
  • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

    I think the Android tablets will ultimately stop the iPad hype. An overpriced product with limited function and a very captive Apple environment will not do well forever. The whole hype reminds me the Beaujolais Nouveau hype where clever marketing succeeded to convince people that some surplus cheap wine should be sold for high prices.
    whs37
    • Like the iPod?

      @whs37

      We just saw what the unbridled media hype of Android and tablets led to outright market share lies.
      Bruizer
      • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

        @Bruizer
        Actually, no. If there's lying going on here, it is this: That Apple reports sales to end users, rather than shipments, and that Galaxy Tabs are merely sitting on retailers' shelves, and not reaching end users. In fact, Apple reports shipments, just as Samsung do. Therefore, the inaccuracies, or "lies" if you will, are flattering Apple and understating Android's encroachment on the iPad's formerly exclusive territory.
        Xenia Onatopp
  • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

    A little research would have been useful Sam - Apple's "sold" is actually "shipped". There is no difference between Apple's measure and the Android measure, so the results given are valid if accurate.

    Can we expect a new article later today apologising for the mischaracterisation and setting the record straight?

    TIA
    andy@...
  • RE: Android's tablet splash: The jury is still out

    Sort of like smart phones and Android. With everyone and their mothers selling Android phones Android will clearly be a success. That said if we are to compare success's then we need actual numbers. <a href="http://sazkove-kancelaree.cz">sazkove tipy</a>
    marco5811
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