The tablet PC category expanded its role in the mobile PC market, with shipments of 72.7 million units, accounting for 25.5% of mobile PC shipments in 2011, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report. The Y/Y shipment growth rate for tablets in 2011 is expected to reach 256%, as strong tablet shipments in Q3â€™11 appeared to be a prelude to equally vigorous demand in Q4â€™11. Introductions of significantly competitive new devices in Q4â€™11, strong demand for incumbents, and additional distribution channels have been catalysts for accelerated tablet PC shipment growth.
Take these results cum grano salis. Shipments? Who cares about shipments? Shipments into the channel without inventory numbers to go along with them is almost meaningless. A good example would be high shipment numbers for RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook and absolutely dismal sales to actual customers. At US$299 PlayBooks in the channel will finally be cleared out in Q1’12. And how does NPD DisplaySearch know how many iPads Apple shipped if only those sold are made public? The difference between shipped (into the channel) and sold (to the customer who will use it) is inventory, and it’s a critically important bit of information.