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The other tablets

Analysts have to count things in order to measure value. It sounds easy but it can be tricky. As I pointed out with PCs vs. iPads, if you count an iPad as a PC you can get into a lot of trouble with your clients. But if you don’t you end up directing them away from confronting an existential threat. Only very rarely is a market report published in contradiction to widely held sustaining beliefs. More often than not analysts bow to the source of their paychecks and in so doing show their rear end to the truth.

This comes up again now with respect to how to count tablets. Consider that there is little difference in architecture, software or design between an iPhone and an iPad. They run the same OS, use the same microprocessors and have similar communication methods, inputs and sensors. However they are considered completely different products and counted as part of separate markets. The only physical attribute that differs is the screen size. So we have to conclude that the size of the screen is a huge determinant factor in deciding whether a product is a tablet but not a smartphone (or music player).

But what about tablets themselves? Their screen sizes vary widely. A 10″ screen is certainly a tablet device, but a 4″ screen certainly isn’t. Where is the boundary exactly? It seems that a 7″ device is still a tablet but a 5″ may not be. The Dell Streak 5 device is presumably not a tablet. The arguments then descend into an arbitrary definition of tablet based on whether it fits in one hand or in a bag of a certain size.

This begins to sound academic. Why should it matter what size is or isn’t a valid tablet? Buyers are not in the market for screen sizes. They are in the market for products that can be hired to do jobs or address pain in their lives. So as far as consumers are concerned, these categories are meaningless. If you want to design something you’d better segment according to jobs to be done.

However, buyers are not the target audience for the analyst. Nor are product designers (hopefully anyway.) Part of the reasoning of offering market research is that it presumably helps ecosystem participants (vendors, developers, retailers, etc.) decide where to invest their time and money. They are the target audience. They don’t spend their lives reading tech blogs. For them it’s important to understand “which way the wind is blowing” and that’s where an analyst should be helpful with data.

But then if we are to measure ecosystems, we have more difficulties.

The iOS ecosystem is pretty well understood. Apple publishes the number of devices it sells and the number of apps on its store and downloads, etc. We can assume Microsoft will do the same with Windows 8 as they do already for Windows in general.

For Android, it’s a challenge. Google measures activations, but that may not cover the actual units sold. Google admits that it does not know how many Android devices are sold or even how many are for sale. It’s in the nature of open source that it’s not controlled and hence not measurable.

But analysts still try. Consider the estimate that about 27% of all “tablets” shipped are Android. That’s not something Google helped with. Google can report the number of activations of a certain version of the OS, but they themselves don’t know what the device looks like or what size screen it has. A device vendor can put any version of Android on a device of any size. To find out how many tablets run Android, you need to try to estimate “bottom up” by adding the output from various vendors.

However, it’s clear that a large number of these devices are not exactly Android. Consider what  Kevin C. Tofel writes for GigaOm:

I asked Strategy Analytics to clarify both of those points and received the following email response from Neil Mawston, the analyst who wrote the report: ”Yes, the press release refers to shipments, not sales. All sub-versions of Android are included. Yes, the B&N Nook Color tablet is included in the tablet figures.”

So the B&N Nook is counted as an Android tablet and part of the 27% share of Android. But Google itself does not count the B&N Nook as an Android tablet. It’s not something that can even use the Android brand. From Google’s own documentation:

We define an “Android compatible” device as one that can run any application written by third-party developers using the Android SDK and NDK. We use this as a filter to separate devices that can participate in the Android app ecosystem, and those that cannot. Devices that are properly compatible can seek approval to use the Android trademark. Devices that are not compatible are merely derived from the Android source code and may not use the Android trademark.

In other words, compatibility is a prerequisite to participate in the Android apps ecosystem. Anyone is welcome to use the Android source code, but if the device isn’t compatible, it’s not considered part of the Android ecosystem.

So to summarize, whereas the Nook is counted as an “Android tablet” it…

  • cannot be called an Android device without violating the trademark
  • may or may not compatible with Android Apps
  • does not include Google Services like Google Maps
  • cannot license the Android Market client software or brand
  • is not considered to be a part of the Android ecosystem by Google

All this is also true for the Amazon Kindle Fire and whatever Baidu, Alibaba and other Google competitors will be selling. Furthermore, Google can define compatibility and therefore what “being Android” means arbitrarily and can change that definition at will. It can even withdraw compatibility on the basis of business priorities.

It matters because these devices might end up very popular (see Amazon’s reporting of Fire’s pre-orders in its quarterly earnings call) and in aggregate could even be the majority of “Android tablets”.

The result is that most analysis of the Android ecosystem (and by comparison, all mobile ecosystems) depends on classifying as Android devices those that compete with Google, and indeed, with Android. For the purpose of assessing value, growth and opportunity for third parties such reports fall short.

So what should be done?

The solution is simple: Count as Android devices those that are allowed to be called Android as per Google’s own definition. It makes clear that developers can reliably sell their software through the Android Market. It makes clear that those devices are designed to use Google services and it makes clear that those devices are not designed to compete with Google.

Those devices which are using “derived” Android source code and are not compatible (as per Google’s definition) and are not allowed to be called Android by their vendor should be called something else. Maybe “Android-like” or “Android derivative” or “Non-Google Android” or just “Other”.

  • bsilent

    The amount of blatant disinformation being supplied by Strategy Analytics, then picked up on in the CNBC/Business Insider machine and spun to predict Apple’s demise is precisely the reason Aapl gets to trade at 10x p/e (less cash) and Amzn gets to party like it’s 1999. Unreal. Here’s to the rise of the “amateur” Analysts and everything you do.

  • http://twitter.com/beno1604 Michel

    I suppose if you still base your business decisions on the analysts (with their dismal track record) you really don’t care about accurate information, you merely need some justification for whatever you decide. Waving around some Gartner study usually does the trick.

    • Anonymous

      I am reminded of some work I was asked to do around 6 months ago, as an executor of a trust fund – something I am poorly qualified to undertake. The question, was whether the amounts invested in various funds were performing well or otherwise, given the size of investment and market possibilities. Since the fund allowed for some expenditure on consultant’s fees, I attempted an overview and selected a fairly wide definition of investment scenarios for the ‘professionals’ to work with. The results were, to me, astonishingly similar and in an attempt to understand why, I asked them to provide their own analysis thinking(we were paying after all). Again the results were similarly sourced. It was as though they all read the same book.
      Further questions revealed the following:
      *Safety lies in using the same source material. ie. you will never be badly wrong regarding your competitors since they are doing exactly the same. You will never be spectacularly right, but then neither will your competitors, again for the same reasons. Success lies with maximising limited opportunities – not with risk taking.
      *Repeatability is essential, therefore elimination of wild factor data points is paramount.
      *(Financial)markets tend to normalise over time thus asserting the importance of simple models. ie. wildly performing sectors are mostly short term and will tend to conform sooner or later.
      *Over performing ie. being more right than wrong, incurs severe risk to your reputation which can take years to rebuild if your judgement is flawed.
      *Over performing consistently is like gambling – you can’t afford to be wrong more than once,
      which statistically is nigh impossible.
      *Being risk-averse is the only sensible approach.
      *Wild factor data has to be eradicated by stressing the ‘normal’ approach’s inherent safety factor and if this means fudging the success of wild factor data, then all well and good since it will bring them to heel and lend credibility to their own generally accepted, narrower viewpoint.

      I think the analyst’s tablet number estimates pretty much follow the same line of thinking as the financial fund analysts. The vast majority of clients don’t want their analysts to be thinking outside the box – and Apple is well outside the box in every metric they use, probably permanently.

      The above journey lead me directly to this site and I can’t thank Horace enough for his constantly challenging articles which have in many ways removed or made redundant a lot of those wild factor elements about Apple in particular and market assessment in general. I feel smarter.

  • Anonymous

    In every case not all analysts are created equal or have the same agenda’s. Thanks for pointing out some of the key elements of industry analysis as it relates to the audience.

    I still wish people would call analysts quotes out as financial or industry since there is a difference.

  • Anonymous

    Google can report the number of activations of a certain version of the OS, but they themselves don’t know what the device looks like or what size screen it has.

    In fact they do know what screen size it has at least roughly.

    http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/screens.html

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      The first link shows “data collected during a 7 day period ending on October 3″ from devices that accessed the Android Market. It’s a sampling of installed base.

      As far as I know Google has not published activation data details with this level of precision.

      There is an API to find out what device is in use for developers but again the question is how much of that is transmitted to Google at time of activation.

      • Anonymous

        They’ve never published it, but it’s a stone cold certainty that they have it. We did get a hint when Andy Rubin stated that there were 6million Android tablets in circulation (interview at Asia D) – and that those were specifically Google activated devices.

        Oh and they also clearly have activations per country, in fact given the visualization produced they may have it down to the post-code/zip code level.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        I noticed Rubin’s comment and assumed that he was counting Honeycomb activations (which are the only tablets that Google endorsed to date.)

        Activations location would also show simply based on IP.

        I considered these when I was wiring, but I have to concede that they probably know more than just the version of the OS.

      • Anonymous

        If he meant only Honeycomb that would be shocking since the Android market numbers would give an estimate of only 3million for that. I’m assuming he was also counting the G-Tab and the Flyer, since they were Google approved devices.

        My point about the geographical breakdown was that they clearly have more data on activations than they are sharing.

    • Eric D.

      If Google is indeed able to gather other metrics, the fact that activations are the only number they’re willing to trot out means that there’s little business upside in the rest of the data.

      This confirms that Android’s underlying purpose is to slow down Apple. Seriously, is Android even profitable?

      If it isn’t, then Android is the most sophisticated virus ever released. From Google’s point of view, what matters is the spread of infection. Google knows it can’t yet put together an ecosystem capable of going head-to-head against iOs. But once the mobile market has been sufficiently fragmented by Android and its recombinant offshoots, Google can start monetizing stronger strains of Android by forcing selected partners to play by its rules.

      • Anonymous

        I would say that Android’s purpose is to build scale in the market fast, and so Google is motivated to put out the figures that best represent that scale – which means activation numbers.

        Google clearly feels at this point that the downsides of giving out more granular data, such as per model activations out-weight the upsides – but that’s hardly the same as saying it’s unprofitable, or a ‘virus’.

      • Eric D.

        Your language is correct, of course. I meant virus in the sense of a piece of software that you release for free on the web with the hope that it will propagate on its own. I suppose “shareware” would be more appropriate. But has Google released any revenue figures for Android that suggest it’s paying what it costs to develop and maintain it? I think Google hopes, like any shareware developer, to make back the money on the “pro version” upgrade, where it can play gatekeeper. But until it does, other ecosystems (Windows 8, WebOs, etc.) may get some traction from companies nervous about Google itself.

      • Anonymous

        No, there are no profit numbers for Android, however one has to be careful not to read too much into that. The obvious conclusion is that Android isn’t profitable and that they don’t want us to know, but it’s possible that it’s the exact opposite.

        Why would Google want to conceal this? Because android users are not the customers, they’re the product. It’s not necessarily in Google’s interest for users to realize how successfully they are being monetized.

  • Kizedek

    “Maybe “Android-like” or “Android derivative” or “Non-Google Android” or just “Other”.”

    Maybe “Android-oid”

    • Anonymous

      Surely we can do better? Robotic? Replicant?

  • gbonzo

    Surely you know that a pocketable device that you have all the time has very different uses (phone etc.) than a non-pocketable tablet that you do not carry around all the time. Of course they are different markets. Yes, the line can be a bit blurry and being slightly larger than pocketable is a very undesirable spot to be. So why all this blabbering about inches without mentioning these trivial facts? Are you trying to look stupid on purpose?

    • vhs

      Gbonzo, Horace said it pretty clearly: “Why should it matter what size is or isn’t a valid tablet? Buyers are not in the market for screen sizes. They are in the market for products that can be hired to do jobs or address pain in their lives.”

      While I agree that mentioning the portability aspect explicitly wouldn’t have hurt it is far from being left out; it is just encapsulated in the usage pattern Horace refers to.

      • gbonzo

        “The arguments then descend into an arbitrary definition of tablet …”

        Far from arbitrary in my opinion. Unexact yes, but not arbitrary.

        “This begins to sound academic. Why should it matter what size is or isn’t a valid tablet?”

        Again, it is clear to many, including Horace, why pocketability matters. This sounds to me that Horace just gives unfair treatment to market analysts.

      • vhs

        Actually he is just trying to find out why they consistently err in their estimates. Since they have been so wrong so many times, and almost never right, it is hardly unfair for Horace to use his own, usually exceptionally well thought-out aspects for his analysis.

      • gbonzo

        This blog used to be brilliant. I used to come here and find that every post contained great wisdom. I don’t know any more. I don’t agree that analysts are “almost never right”. It just seems to me that every other blog post is now made out of dislike of future analyst estimates of Apple. Fanboy whining, that is.

        Sorry for being rude again.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        Your input is valuable. Can you cite where else you saw examples of “dislike of future analyst estimates of Apple”?

      • Anonymous

        I don’t call it whining when one is trying to tease out the truth from the bull. It is pretty obvious that the truth has been at the very least stretched to include Kindles and Nooks in the same category as iPads. I predict that the truth may be even further stretched when Windows 8 tablets are sold because they will presumably be able to run native Windows applications on a tablet form. I fully expect them to be classified as “computers” by the Gartners of the world.

        The fact is, many so-called professional analysts have a lot to answer for. Calling it “whining” doesn’t make that statement any less true.

      • GeorgeS

        “predict that the truth may be even further stretched when Windows 8 tablets are sold because they will presumably be able to run native Windows applications on a tablet form.”

        From what I’ve read, native Windows applications, like Word, won’t run on the “Metro” form of Windows 8. The tablets just don’t have the CPU power, nor the display size to run Word as it is. Microsoft may make a tablet/Metro version of Word, much as Apple has done with Pages and Numbers.

      • Anonymous

        You can’t yourself, apparently. It seems to me that many other people can disagree without name calling.

        Why can’t you?

      • Rudolf Charel

        Your defence of analysts is misplaced when you consider that Horace is right when he states that:
        “More often than not analysts bow to the source of their paychecks and in so doing show their rear end to the truth.

        Now consider the disaster they visited on the world economy by rating junk bonds as AAA and their unfortunate continuation of the opposite in the current market of down rating national bonds.

      • Anonymous

        Please don’t mix up analysts with rating agencies. They are completely different organizations and completely different business models.

      • Rudolf Charel

        The rating agencies are the ultimate analysts. They analyse, supposedly, corporations and countries. On such analysis they base their ratings. What is the difference between them and the analysts who pontificate on sales and market share of phones and tablets?

        Is it not only on the scale of their supposed knowledge? Is there any difference in their bowing to those that pay them? In my opinion it is only the damage they do by being wrong that distinguishes the one from the other.

      • http://twitter.com/dicklacara dicklacara

        Of course pocketability matters — but it is not the only thing nor necessarily the most important thing.

        To illustrate, have a look at this:

        http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7385686n

        We bought the main app used, Proloquo2go, to show a friend who teaches autistic children — she was blown away.

        The app runs on the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad. It really comes into its own on the iPad — while being less portable, it is much, much easier to use.

        The 27-year-old [speechless] man ordering his own meal in a restaurant illustrates this best.

        You decide how important pocketability is in a situation like this.

        Edit: All the iPad apps shown, including Proloquo2go, can be run on the iPad and wirelessly streamed (AirPlay) to a AppTV-connected HDTV.

        This makes possible the scenario where a speech-challenged person can actually teach others.

        I can only imagine what that means to someone who, previously, had his whole life bottled up within his body — with no way to get it out.

        …To allow them to communicate — that’s the job these tablets were hired to do!

      • Anonymous

        “Unexact yes, but not arbitrary.” Please explain, is unexact a word? And, if you meant inexact, can you clarify the word in context with arbitrary?

        I just want to understand your position.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Surely, you know my thoughts on this subject.

      http://www.asymco.com/2010/08/23/analysts-categorical-failure/

    • Alan

      Number one you are rude.

      Number two I recently wanted a touch screen tablet device for web access, email, and other uses. I opted for an iPod touch due to the cost, primarily, over an iPad. To suggest that there is no overlap in functionality (or, in Horace’s and C. Christianson’s vernacular, in the job they are hired to do) between small pocketable devices and larger, non-pocketable devices is to ignore about half the postings on this blog.

      Number three, the focus of the posting was the disposition of devices such as the Nook and Fire which fall close to the blurry dividing line between those categories. Sometimes a writer uses the early portion of a posting to “set up” the impact statement at the end.

      I hope I haven’t made myself sound stupid on purpose here.

    • http://twitter.com/dicklacara dicklacara

      I did a Google search on “iPad pocket” and got about 52,000,000 results (0.17 seconds):

      The results included:
      – lab coats
      – suit/sport coats
      – vests
      – jackets
      – T-Shirts
      – pants
      – shorts
      – cargo pants/shorts
      – holsters
      – detachable Valcro™ sleeves
      – pockets with sleeves and shoulder strap clips
      .
      I have one of the latter that I use when I am out and about with my camera gear and iPad — both the camera/accessory case and the iPad sleeve are attached to a single shoulder strap. This leaves both arms and both hands free and does not add the discomfort or inconvenience of wearing an extra garment (jacket, vest) on a warm day. I have been using this setup for the last 2 years, 5 days a week — attending the grandkids soccer games and practices during May-Nov.
      .
      So, I don’t necessarily think that “pocketable” is a dividing “line”, “non-trivial”, or “stupid”.
      .
      To the contrary, I find that humans are quite inventive and adaptable — and can devise the satisfactory means to carry needed devices with them.
      .
      It is my experience, that many IT technicians, medical/lab technicians, etc. wear lab coats with large pockets, “all the time” during the course of their work day. Among other reasons, the lab coat allows them to carry necessary devices, like [somewhat] bulky tablets — wherever their job make take them.

    • Frank

      At the rate they are going in the Android market their phones are not going to fit into anyone’s pocket soon.

  • Anonymous

    The point of gathering this type of data is to show market viability of available platforms, not necessarily the proliferation of the OS, which is what it turns into when analysts start including devices that run the same OS, but are not the same platforms. Android OS and Android the platform as described by Google are separate products as pointed out in the article.

    The Linux OS is probably the most widely used OS on the planet, but it’s never thought of as being so, because it broken into so many (very) different platforms. Why now is Android being treated differently than this?

    • Davel

      Branding

  • Tom Thompson

    “More often than not analysts bow to the source of their paychecks and in so doing show their rear end to the truth.” I laughed out loud at this. Well-worded, and concisely spells out the truth to why analyst reports are so inaccurate.

    Keep up the good work.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S4XW5DMZAHJ7DVDOP6EEEER2ZA Lake Elkhorn Park User

    Horace,

    If Android tablet counts include devices of all sizes that run Android code of various sizes, should the iOS counts include the iPod Touch? It seems you could chart the start of the “tablet” market with data from several years ago and that this would even more vastly increase the Apple lead in selling iOS table devices. The iPod Touch has the ability to run apps, use the Apple brand and default apps, interact with the ecosystem etc way more than the Nook Color or other derivative devices added to the Android counts. Remember the iPad is just a “big iPod Touch”, as so many detractors stated. Are the 5, 7, 9, etc inch devices from various manufacturers just different sizes also?

    • Anonymous

      Erm, when Apple states total iOS devices sold it does include the iPod touch.

      • Frank

        But analysts don’t count this way.

  • Anonymous

    So, would Jailbroken iOS and Rooted Android change any numbers? They are no longer being actively supported by their OS app stores, or wholly so at least. Better stated, does participation in the Google’s Android Market, Apple’s AppStore, or Amazon’s AppStore constitute ownership of the device? Can taking a mass of 2G/3G iPhones to Cydia lower the total iOS counts?

    Certainly, the advertising metrics are checking versions on iOS and Android devices http://www.electronista.com/articles/11/10/25/millennial.q3.2011.shows.android.at.58pc.share/

    • Anonymous

      Maybe you don’t understand what a jailbroken iOS device is. It most certainly can use the app store and is not limited to cydia. I don’t have first hand knowledge but I assume rooted android can also access google’s market.

      • Anonymous

        APPL makes device sales as important indicator of market penetration, it’s where they make most of the money in this market. GOOG reports activations because they just captured another ad/search device which is where they make money. If Amazon, Samsung/Baidu, B&N are taking forks away from GOOG ad and search, is this a better indicator than sales or activations?

        -RJ

      • Frank

        The problem for Google is how much do they make in advertising revenue from each device? Apple makes anywhere from $250-450 in profit from every iPhone sold and then they make more money over the life of the phone from App, Music, Book, and Movie sales. Do you know how many ad clicks it would take for Google to make that much?

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      It would be simpler to think of it this way: If a device is not called an Android device by Google and is not called an Android device by its vendor, then it probably should not be called an Android device by those whose job it is to count Android devices.

      • gbonzo

        “Yes, the B&N Nook Color tablet is included in the tablet figures.”

        Does this actually mean that Nook Color is included in the Android figures?

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        Yes. That’s what this post is all about. You can read the relevant paragraphs in the linked article (http://gigaom.com/mobile/1-in-4-tablets-from-last-quarter-run-on-android-hmmm/) citing an exchange with the author.
        The original questions posed were:
        “Next is the question of “what is an Android tablet?” It sounds like a simple question to answer, but it’s not. Why? The first Android tablets, going as far back to the middle of 2010, ran on Android 2.x, or Google’s smartphone platform. It wasn’t until February of 2011 that the first Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, tablet arrived. So are the small 7-inch tablets running the smartphone OS counted in the numbers? And what about the popular Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which can be easily modified to be a full-fledged Android tablet?”
        I quoted the response in my post.

      • gbonzo

        The analyst has to draw the line somewhere. We agree that Nook Color is a tablet. Why is it so important that it must be classified separately of Android? And how does the classification affect analyst paycheck?

      • Anonymous

        Because it isn’t part of the ecosystem and because a user needn’t be aware it’s even running android. Did it matter to you that the iPod was running Linux? Does it matter what OS is in your washing machine?
        Also it isn’t agreed that the Nook is a tablet, it is arguably more of an eReader.

      • gbonzo

        Please. Basic eReaders are not very capable for internet and not capable for video consumption. Even the usage patterns would classify Nook Color as a tablet.

        I agree that one could classify Nook Color separate from Android, but I repeat, you have to draw the line somewhere. At worst, it is a minor error in classification. And I don’t say minor because of sales numbers. I say minor, because Nook Color is close to being an Android device.

        And there is still the question of how it affects the paycheck.

      • Davel

        @gbonzo

        You say the nook is not good at Internet and not and video. Much of the power of the tablet is exactly that ( and games and apps ). So with the above, how do you classify it as a tablet? In a broad sense it is, but that is not how it is marketed and if the above is true not how it is used.

      • gbonzo

        Nook Color does not use e-ink display. It is not a basic eReader. Nook Color can and will be used for these tablet uses.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        We most certainly do not agree that the Nook Color is a tablet but that’s beside the point. The separation of Android-compatible from Android-incompatible has to do with measuring opportunity for developers and to assess the strength of the ecosystem. That’s what the post addressed as well: as a casual observer of the industry interested in making an investment of time or money into a platform, the data that Android is 27% of the tablet market might give you a reason to consider it.
        Regarding the paycheck, the report cited is priced at $7,000 for 7 pages. Who might be the buyer? By this price point we can guess that Strategy Analytics sells to large firms. Large incumbent firms. These firms have a predisposition to defend a business model. Would buyers continue buying from a firm that insists that their business model is doomed? Especially when they continue to profit from said model? Especially when you suggest that the definition of the market they are in is wrong? The market analyst business model itself depends on consultation with incumbents and a reflection of their core assumptions. Contradiction of clients’ top priorities is a career limiting move.
        I don’t blame the analyst. He is doing exactly what he is paid to do. If I was employed by the firm, I too would do the same thing. The point is that selling analysis is a deeply flawed concept. The burden of a paycheck is unbearable.

      • gbonzo

        In my opinion you have a burden of a paycheck. Your quality used to be great, now post less to keep that standard and avoid the burden of your paycheck.

        What comes to Nook Color being a tablet, I could not disagree more. You have some sort of very weird Apple bias or something to claim that Nook Color is not a tablet. It looks like a tablet. It specs like a tablet. It is capable (unlike e-Ink) to tablet uses. It it used for tablet uses (all the same as iPad, basically, including books). It is a tablet.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        As I wrote in the discussion on the failure of categorization (http://www.asymco.com/2010/08/23/analysts-categorical-failure/), the category of a product depends on what job the product is hired to do. A “job” does not relate to the specs or capabilities or the uses of other products. As a result, competing products may not look or work anything like each other. They may even come from different industries. A classic example is the iPod. It did not look like a component stereo system or a music retailer, but ended up destroying both.
        There are many sources for more information. Here is a seminal one describing the job a milkshake is hired to do: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5170.html
        By understanding the jobs an iPad is hired to do vs. the jobs a Nook is hired to do you might realize that not only do they not compete with each other but that they will probably both be successful vs. competitors that are not considering them as threats. For example iPad might compete successfully vs Windows and the Nook might compete successfully vs. The New York Times.

      • gbonzo

        Do not talk of Nook. We are talking of Nook Color. Nook Color is very different from Nook exactly because of internet and video possibilities. The job that Nook Color is created to do is the same as iPad and very different from Nook. Read your milk shake link again.

        iPad and Nook Color can both compete with (or have success with) The New York Times.

  • http://nmuppala.wordpress.com Nalini Kumar Muppala

    If “derived” Android tablets become a significant proportion, lumping them into “other” would mean the report would be less useful as it would not shed light on market size for apps on such devices. It seems wise to be the first to pick a new category for these devices. The interested could be enticed to buy another report that further classifies, quantifies “derived” Android tablets.

  • Bigal50

    Andy Rubin last week at AsiaD admitted that there were “about 6 million Android tablets out there” running Google’s services.
    http://thisismynext.com/2011/10/19/andy-rubin-6-million-android-tablets-out-there/

    But if you follow SA’s Android tablet shipments over the past 2 years, (based on their press releases at least) they suggest almost double, around 12 million Android tablets, have been shipped.

    It seems to lead to the following conclusions: 1) SA are grossly overestimating their numbers 2) there are lots of Android tablets stuck in various warehouses, or 3) the market for Android tablets without Google services is much larger than thought.

  • Luis Alejandro Masanti

    quote:
    “More often than not analysts bow to the source of their paychecks and in so doing show their rear end to the truth.”

    Your cleverness to the highest!

    There is a saying in Argentina: “The only truth is reality.”

    Why are all others than Apple missguiding the numbers?
    Maybe because reality is that they are not “good” numbers for their cause.

    Apple shows “sold” iPhones, “sold” iPads, “sold” iPods from which almost half are iPod touch.
    Maybe the last ones are not “so good” in Apple’s parlance.

    Why HTC or Samsung (I do not remember which) did not give sold phone’s numbers anymore?
    Why Amazon did never give Kindle numbers? (And now they are specting looses with the Fire!)

    This is the main goal, IMHO, of Google: missguide the audience with the same lies that they are telling people about openess and “don’t be evil.”

    So, analysts should go deeper and break the reality distorsion field that they want to make us believe.

  • OpenMinde

    What is the consequence of counting wrong? Who are the winners and who are the losers if count wrong? Who are the winners and losers if count correct?

  • Omar Grant

    It seems there is a hidden message in all this, in my personal perception, the analysts are doing everything in their power to leverage Android as the superior entity that overtakes iOS. It’s as if we are being taken back to the windows vs Mac days, where everyone wants windows to come out on top.

    The majority of analysts out there are painting a false scenario that iOS is being overtaken in product success and mindshare by Android. Which in reality iOS is generating far more revenue and popularity among devices like tablets & smart phones.

    • Anonymous

      Completely agree. If iOS wins, this is good for Apple, a small number of iOS device component suppliers, and app developers.

      If Android wins, it’s good for Google, Motorola, Dell, Samsung, LG, HTC, Amazon, every component supplier on the planet, and every developer on the planet. All these companies pay analysts’ bills.

      • Davel

        Also the street does not make much money on Apple. They own their own story. The analysts do not understand the company and Apple is a very simple company. Computers, phones, tablets, music players, iTunes and now iCloud. Not too many moving parts. Apple is very transparent in its conference calls and printed material in understanding the broad outlines of how it is doing. What service does the street provide in understanding the company?

        Because Apple does not borrow, they make no money in raising capital and advising the company. When Apple buys someone they don’t go to the street to advise it on how to do it.

        Apple also resists its calls to do share buybacks, dividends and the like to ‘more efficiently’ utilize it’s cash.

        These other companies that you list do the above so the street benefits.

    • Anonymous

      So now they’re biased because Apple is losing? What a joke. Seems you have some supporters here though too. Even bigger joke.

      • http://twitter.com/ecclespaul Paul Eccles

        Apple still completely dominates tablet sales, iPhone makes more money than the rest of the cell phone industry. Macs make more money than the entire PC industry. Where exactly is Apple losing?

      • Anonymous

        Making money for investors does not ensure you stay relevant.

        It’s what they do with that money that counts. Such as use it to gain marketshare. Which they are not doing very well at the moment.

  • highroller

    Horace, what do you think about the Kindle Fire in light of the recent Amazon earnings report? There are some estimates out there, that suggest that Amazon loses $50 on each Kindle Fire they sell. If they have an ambition of selling as many, or more tablets as Apple does, then it’s not hard to see that it will effectively destroy all of Amazon’s current profit. Granted, it may be offset by additional content they sell through their tablets, but so far it’s not clear how much profit an average Fire user can generate.
    Also, why do you think Apple has been so stubborn in demanding its 30% cut from all content sellers that do it through Apple devices? Since Apple makes by far most of their profit by selling devices (a trend that is not likely to change anytime soon), wouldn’t it be easier for them to strike some kind of exclusive deals with content providers like Amazon, allowing them to sell content for free, while obliging them to stay away from the business of making and selling their own devices?

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      I would be surprised that the Fire had an impact on the quarter. My understanding is that profitability decreased due to increased hiring. Whether that is to support the product or ongoing operations, I don’t know.
      The Fire will not likely effectively destroy Amazon’s current profit. Amazon can destroy its profit entirely unaided by the Fire. Their margins are razor thin and they can fall on very minor changes to the way the operate.
      I can’t really comment on the margin Apple charges for content distribution. Distribution has always had a price, and a cost.

    • Anonymous

      What Apple wants from content providers is only that: Content. As much as it can, Apple wants to control how that content is sold and delivered to the end customer. Apple wants the customer to log in to their network and trust them with their credit card and Apple wants to streamline and support the customer experience themselves.

      Amazon and other content retailers want the same. If Apple gives Amazon what it wants, Apple will lose control of the customer experience as it pertains to content on Apple devices. That would fragment and complicate Apple’s all-important customer experience.

    • Anonymous

      Apple does not take 30%. That is a Gizmodo number. It’s pulled out of thin air after learning that app developers get 70% of retail.

      How it actually works is the content provider sets the retail price, the content provider gets 70-90% of the retail, Apple gets 1%, and the difference is the overhead: servers, design, customer service, credit cards, legal, stores in many countries and currencies, and a ton of other stuff that you don’t see but which makes Apple’s stores work so well that they make it look easy.

      So the answer to why they don’t give content providers a better deal is they are already getting a great deal. This is what it costs to run a successful worldwide content store. The magazines that are getting 70% of retail on iPad are getting 5% of retail on the paper version.

      • Davel

        Apple does get 30%. They said so when rolling out the product. This does not mean 30% profit. It means a 30% tax of gross accrue to Apple to use as they see fit.

      • Anonymous

        How did you get 3 likes from posting so much wrong information?

        It says right on the Apple developers site that developers get 70% cut, not 90%. And we are talking gross revenue cut. Actual profit is an unknown, so your stating definitively 1% does not make any sense.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        The discussion is in response to a question on the cut for content providers, not developers.

    • Davel

      I am still trying to understand the motivation for the Fire. Why lose money on a device you don’t have to build? Amazon can build html5 apps/site and or Apple and Android apps to tune the experience. The only difference would be the hardware is not their own. Of course there is the browser, but how much of a difference will that make? Is the cost of building the device really worth the marginal benefit of tightly controlling the experience? They are an electronic retailer of goods not a hardware manufacturer like Apple.

      Ultimately Amazon has to compete on more than price. There is no way they can out Apple Apple here.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        The general consensus is that Amazon is going after the digital download and streaming market, and many wonder if that will be profitable enough to justify selling the Kindle Fire at a loss or break even point.

        However, the consensus is ignoring that Amazon’s product catalog of physical items is HUGE, probably the largest. If Amazon’s strategy is based on selling ALL the various products and not just digital ones, the Kindle Fire starts to make sense. They’re moving towards where their customers are going (and providing a way for the customer to get there), and they’re working (I would guess) on making purchases as frictionless as possible. Rather than just creating an app to sell products (and remember, if they go through Apple’s App Store, they have to give a 30% cut!), they are ambitiously creating their own platform/ecosystem.

        It’s a mutation of Google’s strategy to capture mobile advertising but it’s adapted to Amazon’t business model.

      • Davel

        But how does making the fire ( and the cost involved ) further this goal? They could do the same with html5 and or apps for google/apple.

        Not sure how selling hardware helps this. They are a retailer. The only differentiator is the browser. Will capturing their customers searches be that valuable?

  • Hossein

    ” Google can report the number of activations of a certain version of the OS, but they themselves don’t know what the device looks like or what size screen it has.”

    This is incorrect. When an “Android” is activated it sends a unique identifier plus model and build information to Google. The model uniquely identifies the device specification including screen size. Also, the unique identifier does not change therefore, they can subtract the number of reactivations.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Thanks for this detail. I conceded that Google probably knows more than I first thought in a different comment thread. It still surprises me that they don’t offer more detail about their “sales” other than occasional activation rate updates. With the detailed knowledge they have they could certainly shed a lot more light on their market performance.

      • Davel

        Because it does not benefit them.

        They are happy to show growing numbers without being too specific. It suits their aim.

  • Tatil

    Counting phones and tablets compatible with Google’s Android platform and incompatible ones derived from Android may not serve the best interests of potential customers, software developers or service providers, but it makes a lot of sense for the suppliers in the hardware industry. Is it possible that these reports are primarily purchased by them, while the other groups are relying on different metrics?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703848523 Harvey Lubin

    “Yes, the press release refers to shipments, not sales.”

    This is what is known as “putting your thumb on the scales”.

    There is a HUGE difference between units “shipped” and units “sold”.

    Apple sells every iPad it makes to end users, so the numbers given for iPads “sold” are real numbers of iPads in the hands of users.

    But manufacturers of Android tablets don’t sell directly to end users. They sell to retail outlets and mobile services. So when they report numbers of Android tablets “sold”, the numbers are really for tablets “shipped” (tablets sold to resellers, NOT to end users).

    Remember not too long ago Samsung reported glowingly that they had “sold” 1,000,000 of the original Galaxy Tab. They were questioned about this, and eventually Samsung admitted that it was 1,000,000 units “shipped” to resellers… but only 20,000 (2%) of those were actually sold to end users.

    • Anonymous

      You left out the rest of that sentence: “An executive at rival Android tablet maker Lenovo claims”

  • Anonymous

    A typical office desk has a desktop phone and a desktop PC. So if you want the touch mobile versions you need an iPhone and iPad, not an iPhone and an iPod touch. Not just because of the screen size but because of the apps. The iPhone/iPod/Kindle has all the phone apps and iPad has all the PC apps. I never run the same apps on both devices. Instead, I’m running phone apps like Skype on the phone and PC apps like Keynote on the iPad, doing the exact same thing I would be doing at a desktop phone and PC. The full-size PC apps exploit the 10 inch screen and make it worth carrying. If running phone apps, the big screen is wasted, you end up wanting a smaller device, another phone.

    So until Android has a PC app platform, it doesn’t have a tablet PC, even if a manufacturer ships a 14 inch Android device. If it runs phone apps, it is a phone or a media player/reader, not a tablet.

    So the analysis should be between iPad and Windows TabletPC. When you look at that, you see why Microsoft’s last Windows developer’s conference was all about tablets. They are actually competing with iPad. Google and Android partners are obviously not, or they would have better ways to port PC apps.

  • Davel

    Thank you for this post. It clearly gives some color on how android is reported and the factors influencing the numbers.

    However, the fact that it is reported this way and the current environment where news is not vetted means Google wins in its goal of overstating it’s importance.