What those other tablets are up to

The Chitika report for june show’s iPad usage at 83% and everyone else scrambling for the remaining percentages. This is quite different from how many devices are being reportedly sold by each manufacturer. There are a number of potential explanations:

Other devices using webkit browsers might spoof the iPad’s HTTP User Agent string to make sure they get proper versions of websites. Web developers are guilty of doing things like checking for an iOS version in user agents to provide h.264 video instead of flash instead of doing it the right way, which would be attempting to display h.264 in a <video> tag with a Flash fallback if the browser doesn’t recognize it.

The most cynical explanation is of course that units moved does not equal units purchased and not returned by users.

Another explanation may be that other tablets are being used just fine but not for browsing. Last year around the holidays, my iPad loving brother and his wife decided to get their oldest son an original Kindle fire because of price and parental controls. He only has access to books and games they’ve loaded onto it, not the browser. I imagine this is probably true for a lot of Kindle fires. My brother was not the first iPad owner who asked me about getting one for their kids.

Another possibility is that cheap tablets are being used the same way as cheap Android 2.3 phones are: primarily social network machines. For these people, the device runs Facebook primarily, and all the web content they read is still within the Facebook app with who knows what user agent string. With many websites offering Facebook/Twitter as RSS type features, this is easier than you may think. Many of my Facebook friends are subscribed to news outlets on Facebook.

The Surface RT used to be too expensive to fall into any of those categories, but have you ever seen one in the wild? I live in a college town and I still haven’t. I expect their numbers are accurate representations of sales.

For those curious what I have seen in the wild…
MacBooks and iPads on campus and near campus hangouts (Barnes and Noble, Starbucks), with a wide majority. To see anything else is about 10%. Thinkpads are the dominant non-Apple laptop.

9/10 times I think I see a non-iPad tablet it turns out to be a very large case on it. The rest of the time it’s a Samsung.

Train travelers use all types on e-ink Kindles roughly on par with iPad usage, but I’ve never seen one not at the train station or on the train.

At locations over a mile off campus and only reachable by car (like Panera), the PC laptop vs MacBook ratio rises to about 50/50, and Samsung tablets get a little more popular, but it’s mostly all iPads.

In the waiting room at my dentist, teens and parents alike were either using iPads or iPhones if they were using it for something other than a phone. Android phones were being used to talk or text. No Windows phones. No non-iPad tablets. Still a few hardware keyboard BlackBerry devices.