Is iPad's Tablet Share 67% or 85%?

We've got way too many analyst firms estimating market share based on "shipped" rather than "sold" hardware devices. Joining that esteemed club, this morning Strategy Analytics put out tablet data saying that iPad and Android tablets combined for 94% marketing share in Q3:  

Global tablet shipments reached 17 million units in the third quarter of 2011. Apple iOS and Android dominate the worldwide market with a combined 94 percent share . . . Apple shipped a record 11.1 million iPads and registered a healthy 67 percent global tablet market share during the third quarter of 2011. Apple iOS remains the world’s dominant tablet platform with the most established services ecosystem.

As the company's press release above says, Strategy Analytics estimated Apple's Q3 tablet market share at 67%. But that's not an accurate reflection of the iPad's market share overall -- though journalists and bloggers will report it that way.

Effectively Apple and Android combine to form 100% of the "tablet" market in terms of devices sold. If we include eReaders, which implicates Kindle and others, then the 94% figure is probably accurate or close. Strategy Analytics is estimating on the basis of tablets "shipped" rather than "sold," which leads to distortion of the numbers. Samsung shipped many more Galaxy Tab devices than it actually sold.

Let's look at the actual numbers.

Android boss Andy Rubin said this week at the "D" conference in Asia that there were "more than six million Android tablets out there." That also doesn't mean "sold to consumers." But it's helpful as a figure representing the total universe of Android tablets "in market." By contrast Apple has actually sold 40 million iPads to date

If we exclude eReaders from the "tablet" market, the numbers above show Apple with an 85% market share and Android with 15%. But the Android figures also probably include tablets shipped but not actually sold (as with the Samsung G-Tab example). So Apple's market share is probably closer to 90%. 

Indeed, in June of this year comScore put out data that argued the iPad delivers “89 percent of tablet traffic across all markets.” In the US the figure was 97 percent. We can safely assume that in the US the number is now somewhat lower -- but not much. 

Kindle Fire is selling well and will greatly boost Android's share numbers. But the implication that more than 30% of the market is now controlled by non-Apple tablets is simply wrong.