Research firm Strategy Analytics estimate that about 10.5 million Android tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2011. That’s more than a 300 percent jump from a year earlier, and the increase in Android tablet shipments means that Android devices now make up about 39 percent of overall tablet sales.
But one thing that wasn’t in Strategy Analytics original report is exactly which Android tablets account for the increase. Fortunately Mark Spoonauer at Laptop Magazine put on his reporter hat and asked the firm what role the Amazon Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet played.
The answer? About 40 percent (or a little over 4 million) of those 10.5 million tablets were NOOK Tablet or Kindle Fire devices.
Update: Flurry also reports that about 36% of people actively using their Android tablets are using the Kindle Fire.
While these tablets both run software that’s based on Google Android, the NOOK Tablet and Kindle Fire both ship with highly modified versions of Android. Neither includes the Android Market, for instance — and any Android app that requires a camera wouldn’t run properly on either tablet anyway, since neither has a camera.
Hackers have figured out how to install Android 4.0 or a more Google-like version of Android 2.3 on the Kindle Fire by replacing the bootloader and recovery software and loading CyanogenMod on the tablet. Work is underway to do the same thing with the NOOK Tablet, and hackers have already figured out how install the Android Market or to sideload apps that don’t come from the B&N Shop on that tablet.
But it’s likely that most NOOK Tablet and Kindle Fire owners are using the software that came with their tablets, which means that while technically it’s true that Android tablets are gaining in market share, some of the most popular “Android” tablets don’t look or feel like they’re running the software that Google designed, and they don’t download apps, music, movies, or books from Google’s digital content stores.
But that’s the point of Android: that anybody can use it in any way they want to.
China’s smartphones don’t have the Market or Google’s apps, but I guess a Huawei smartphone is an Android both in Europe and in China.
Besides, although to the consumers there may be no Android, for Amazon and B&N the difference is crucial: all the apps available for their tablets are Android apps. Choosing another platform would mean starting from scratch (and, in any case, they would do that with their next tablets). The same goes for the Chinese firms.
I’m about to get a Galaxy Note so personally I’m not interested in any tablet. But what never ceases to amaze me is the sheer diversity inside Android – from the Note to the Fire, going through the Nexus, the failed Motorola Lapdock, the promising Asus Padfone. There are so many possibilities.
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