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Samsung Android tablet sales smaller than thought

When shipments don't equal sales

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A Samsung executive has admitted that the Korean giant hasn't put quite as many Android tablets in the hands of punters as its recent claim that it has shipped 2m of the things suggests.

Speaking at its earnings conference late last week, Samsung executive Lee Young-hee implied that sales of Galaxy Tab tablets to consumers were not impressive. She didn't state stats, the Wall Street Journal reports, but said that sales to end users were "quite smooth".

She contrasted that with the "quite aggressive" sales to retail channels and network operators, suggesting to us that while Samsung has sent out 2m Galaxy Tabs, rather a lot of them are still sitting on shop shelves.

This calls into question figures put out by researcher Strategy Analytics yesterday which put Android's share of the emerging tablet market at 21.6 per cent in Q4 2010. That figure is based on Samsung shipping 2m units - the vast majority of the 2.3m Android tablets SA calculates were shipped during the quarter.

The key word here is 'shipped', which covers units sold by vendors to their retailers and other resellers.

Like SA, most market watchers collate figures from vendors - shipment figures - rather than over-the-counter 'sales' - units bought by real consumers. The few research firms who track the latter - GfK in Europe and NPD in the US, for example - guard numbers jealously: they are their bread and butter.

The justification for tracking shipments rather than sales is that, thanks to modern sales channel management systems, the two are usually not very different. But as Samsung's example shows, that's not always the case.

Sauce for the goose is just as tasty on the gander, and it's worth recalling that Apple's numbers are shipments too, not sales. Apple's impressive numbers say nothing about how many iPads are in punters' hands, either.

But we suspect it's rather closer to the shipments figure than Samsung's has turned out to be. ®

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