What does marketshare really mean?
I'm constantly seeing marketshare numbers stating that Apple has such and such a percentage of devices shipped. This is such a meaningless statement. We don't even know the shipping numbers from all companies. Samsung refuses to give them out since they were called out on that by Lenovo in the first calendar quarter of 2011. So every number involving Samsung is no more than a guess, as those numbers can't be matched against numbers from Samsung.
The same thing is true for Microsoft. All we know with them, is that when numbers are good, they will announce them. But when they are bad, they will say nothing other than the equally meaningless "sold out".
But it's even worse! We often see the word "sold" instead of shipped. Who other than Apple gives sell through? But we see Apple's sell through numbers. Interestingly, we also see Apple's shipped numbers, though no one other than Apple uses them. What do I mean by that? Shipped is number of product shipped from the manufacturer. It includes the number of product sold, whatever that may be, and the number of product out there, but not yet sold to the end user. There is also the sold to the retailer, distributer, etc. but that's not what we normally expect to see from these numbers.
But Apple also supplies the number of product "in the channel" as the number of days or weeks of supply they want to have moving there. That number, plus the number of sell through, is the number shipped. Apple derives that by dividing the total number sold by the number of days in the quarter (approximately). That gives the number sold per day, or week, as the case may be.
They then say how much product is in the channel, by days, or weeks of supply. Add that to the number sold, and, guess what? We now have the number shipped! So if they sold 20 million devices the quarter, and have a typical 5 week supply in the channel, that's another 7.8 million. Add that to the 20 million, and we get 27.8 million shipped.
Pretty simple, but I never see that number quoted. Apple's numbers are lumped together with all the other shipped numbers, both real, and made up, using Apple's sold numbers. Hardly fair!
So what is the actuall SOLD marketshare Apple has? I suspect it's much higher than the 33.8% used. Particularly when compared to Samsung. It might be remembered that in the lawsuit between Apple and Samsung, both were required to give the actual sell through of the models under question. Of the million tablets Samsung was supposed to have shipped to the USA around the time in question, only 38 thousand had been sold. If the phones in question, on,y between one third, to one half of the numbers estimated to have been shipped were sold.
So why aren't Samsung's numbers revised drastically downwards? It's a good, and fair question. Considering that Apple's usage is vastly higher, one has to think that it's more than Apple's devices being used more, it's also because the other devices aren't selling in the numbers the analysts are telling us they are.
I'd like to see a real article investigating this.