IDC Confuses Tablet Shipments Into The Channel & Sales To Customers


Worldwide media tablet shipments into sales channels rose by 23.9% on a sequential basis in the third calendar quarter of 2011 (3Q11) to 18.1 million units, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker. That represents an increase of 264.5% from the same quarter last year, but 5.8% below the original forecast of 19.2 million units. Despite these slightly lower-than-expected shipments in 3Q11, IDC sees strong demand in 4Q11 and has increased its worldwide shipment forecast for 2011 to 63.3 million units, up from a previous projection of 62.5 million units.

Apple continued to drive worldwide media tablet shipments in 3Q11. The company shipped 11.1 million units in 3Q11, up from 9.3 million units in 2Q11. That represents a 61.5% worldwide market share (down from 63.3% in 2Q11). HP entered and left the market in 3Q11 with its TouchPad product. The company shipped 903,354 units to grab a 5% share of the worldwide market, number three behind Samsung’s 5.6% market share. After IDC updated its taxonomy to move LCD-based devices such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color into the media tablet category, Barnes & Noble shipped 805,458 units to achieve the number four spot with a 4.5% market share. ASUS rounded out the top five with a 4% share.

This analysis is entirely wrong. Thanks to Samsung reporting shipment figures and wanting it to sound like sales to customer figures most astute readers of market data are aware of the difference between shipments into the channel and sales to customers. The big difference is inventory. Another recent example is RIM with its PlayBook: high shipment numbers, terribly low sales numbers. Yet another one is HP’s TouchPad. HP might have shipped almost one million units, but it took a drastic price slashing to actually get them into the hands of customers. Shipments into the channel and sales to customers are entirely different.

Apple does not unveil shipments into the channel; the company reports sales to customers as in people, not distributors, not retailers, actual people. So how does IDC calculate Apple shipments into the channel? It doesn’t. To IDC Apple’s shipments into the channel are the same as sales to customers. That’s absolutely wrong. To make matters worse IDC then compares Apple’s sales numbers to other company’s shipment numbers. A useless analysis.