Android's funny-numbers problem

There are lies, damned lies, and market share reports that seem to have little basis in hard data when it comes to tablet figures

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Strategy Analytics also estimates that Kindle Fires and Nook Color e-readers made up about 40 percent of the Android shipments, or 4.2 million combined. Never mind that financial analyst firm Stifel Nicolaus has estimated that Amazon.com sold (or maybe shipped; it wasn't clear) 6 million Kindle Fires alone. That's about twice Strategy Analytics' estimates for the Fire, if you assume that the Fire outsold the Nook three to one. The margin of difference in these estimates is beyond any sound data's margin of error.

Circumstantial data bears out the ludicrous nature of these figures. For example, a study of Internet ad impressions by Chitika shows that for every 100 iPad browser ads delivered, 2.4 were delivered to Kindle Fire users, 1.5 to Xoom users, and 1.5 to Samsung Galaxy Tab users. Of course, its data also says that 1.8 were sent to RIM BlackBerry PlayBook users, which seems like a lot considering RIM had to dump this dog of a tablet at fire-sale prices at the end of 2011. Or maybe that shows just how low actual Android tablet sales to customers really are. After all, three months earlier the calculations based on ComScore data suggested that iPads accounted for 88 percent of all Web traffic generated by tablets -- and that was before the iPad's holiday sales surge.

What does this all mean? Certainly it means you can't trust the market share and sales numbers about Android devices, and thus not about the mobile market competition. When sales data is hidden or manipulated, such as reporting shipments rather than net sales, you can be pretty sure something is being hidden. Like poor sales. What we do know is that Apple sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter, Motorola Mobility shipped 0.2 million Android tablets, and ... well, that's it.

What I want to know is what the rest of the Android crowd is hiding, and why they won't come clean.

This article, "Android's funny-numbers problem," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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