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Samsung V Apple Case Shows How The Media Can Misuse Numbers And Blur The Meaning Between Shipped and Sold

by on10 August 2012 2191 times

We heard a great story this morning surrounding the Samsung V Apple case. So far we have counted four sites that have repeated the analysis that takes massive liberties with data and also blurs the lines between the words “shipped” and sold. As we all know every quarter companies like IDC and Gartner release their estimates based on the number of units shipped to through the channel. They do this for most devices and are used to help predict growth and also to help investors. These reports us classify shipments in the following way “Shipments include shipments to distribution channels or end users. OEM sales are counted under the vendor/brand under which they are sold” this makes them somewhat unreliable to say the least.

So let’s take a look at today’s spin and show just how far (or not so far) some are willing to go. Our first item up is going to be a defining the two words; Shipped and Sold.
In simple terms a company can ship an item that never results in a sale. A sale is just that, a sale to an end user either directly or through a distribution channel.  An example of this would be company X sending 10,000 widgets to a package store. The original 10k is counted as shipped and would be reported that way in an IDC or Gartner report.  However if that same store only sells 1,000 the report is inaccurate in the extreme because it will show a much higher number than actual sales account for.

Fortunately the numbers are not usually that extreme, but they can be. This is why predictions based on the supply chain are slim at best.

Now that we have that cleared up let’s more to the claims by some in the media. They have taken an IDC report that shows Samsung shipped over 2 Million tablets worldwide and are trying to relate those to actual sales of tablets. The reason they are doing this is that Samsung filed a document that showed actual sales of the Galaxy Tab product in the US which totals only 262,000. They seem to think that this is unrealistic and that Samsung must be faking numbers.

They also have pointed to a report that claimed Samsung said they sold 2 Million Galaxy Tabs worldwide. Unfortunately they must have missed one very important line in that article. “While Samsung refused to confirm the 2 million figure to PCMag directly, multiple sources are independently reporting it based on a Q&A during the company's fourth-quarter results call with investors. A transcript of the call confirms sales of the Galaxy Tab were discussed”

It seems that Samsung never said they “sold” 2 Million units to anyone directly and they also missed the difference between shipped and sold. Samsung has filed actual sales numbers showing 262,000 for Q4 2010 which was right after launch and only 77,000 in Q1 of 2011. They did increase the number of units shipped, but it would appear they were not able to sell them as well as thought.

In Q2 2012 IDC reported 2.7 million units “shipped” while Samsung is claiming “sales” of only 37,000 in the US. Again these are two separate numbers here. Shipping something does not equal a sale. Samsung also has a much stronger presence in Europe and the APAC region than they do in the US for tablet sales. Apple has a large portion of this market and always has. Remember Apple releases new iDevices in the US first and then releases them to the rest of the world later. Samsung does the opposite which will naturally increase the number of units “sold” outside the US.

This is just another attempt to paint an inaccurate picture using numbers and statistics; unfortunately any time you actually look at the facts at hand things quickly become clearer. The sites covering this as news and the sign of something sinister also missed the fact that IDC claimed Apple “shipped” 17 million iPads which is about 2 million off from Apple’s sales numbers for Q2 2012 (which was estimated at 14.9 million sold). I guess that is an ok discrepancy though as it is Apple.

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Last modified on 10 August 2012
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