Strategy Analytics raised a lot of eyebrows earlier today with a report that said Android tablets accounted for 39 percent market share in Q4 2011, up from 29 percent a year ago. The iPad's share dropped from 68.2 percent to 57.6 percent. So is Android really "narrowing the gap" as many have suggested? No, but you could say Amazon and Barnes & Noble are.
We asked the author of the study, Peter King, to estimate what percentage of Android's tablet share is comprised of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, and he told us it's about 40 percent of that 39 percent number. Strategy Analytics hasn't yet released its Q4 tablet sales estimates broken down by vendor and region but will do so in about a week.
If you back out the Fire and Nook Tablet from the latest numbers, King says the Android tablet market grew about 100 percent. That seems decent, but iPad sales grew 111 percent year over year. So even when you add together Samsung, Motorola, LG, ASUS, Acer, Toshiba, and everyone else who makes an Android tablet, they couldn't surpass the iPad. Add the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet back into the mix and that "Android" growth balloons up to 240 percent.
For King, it's an open question as to whether Amazon's and Barnes & Noble's success is really helping or hurting Google. "These tablets are loosely based on Android, which is not accessing Google services and not accessing Google apps at market." In other words, devices like the Fire are really helping Amazon more than Android.
At the same time, the Fire and Nook Tablet barely phased the iPad during Q4 because they play in a different market. They're so-called reading tablets (or eReaders with benefits). What the success of these slates do spell trouble for are all the devices that sit between that magical $200 price point and the $499 iPad.
"There’s that gap in the middle now, King said, "which is the space where people really need to get their strategies right, get their pricing right, get their channels right, get their ecosystem right, and try and break into that midground."
The analyst argues that too many companies tried to attack the iPad by releasing products within a few percentage points of the leader in terms of price and performance. "And that backfired badly, because none of them have that ecosystem."