Triangulating the number of webOS users
Palm has historically been mum on the subject of sales numbers (with the notable exception of the Centro, one of the company’s few commercially successful products in recent memory), but using analyst reports, developer sales numbers and data from social networks such as Facebook, it may be possible to hazard a guess as to how many webOS based devices are in use throughout the world.
Using data from 3 of the big three analyst firms – comScore, Gartner and IDC – we can get a close approximation of how many Palm users there are in the US. ComScore suggests that there are 49.1 million smartphone users domestically, and that 4.8% of them used Palm smartphones as of May. That would translate to around around two million users - assuming of course that the majority of that 4.8% are webOS users. Unfortunately, these numbers can be tricky.
According to IDC's Kevin Restivo, it's typical for firms publish "sell-in" numbers, or the sales from a vendor to its various channel partners, rendering those numbers a fairly ineffective metric in Palm's case (though firms do perform custom research for companies that evaluate the inverse of sell-in: sell-out). Instead of using channel based measurements, comScore bases its view of the mobile world on internet traffic, resulting in a metric that still quite useful.
If we assume that not every Pre or Pixi owner uses Facebook, we could perhaps also estimate that the total number of users is, again, around two million. This metric isn’t entirely useful for getting an accurate gauge of the install base, but it gives a good baseline.
Developer sales numbers
Pandora, the popular streaming audio app that's only available Stateside and winner of the $100,000 grand prize in the Hot Apps contest, is perhaps one of the most downloaded applications from the App Catalog. Using various analytics tools found around the internet, it looks as if Pandora has been able to clock a cool 2.3 million downloads alone since webOS phones first went on sale over a year ago. That number is a little fuzzy, of course, since only developers can separate download numbers from the overall download number that includes updates.
Two Million webOS users?
It’s impossible to pin down the exact number of activated and in use webOS based phones – only Palm knows that number – but using the above an estimate of around 2 million users doesn't seem too far off. That number represents small drop in the North American smartphone market (estimated at 49.1 million users per the comScore study cited above) and makes Palm’s platform one that’s barely visible in the wider global market.
For now, webOS mostly gets lumped into the 'Other' category when looking at total sales numbers - with any luck that will change in the future and we will be able to get a clearer picture. Hopefully HP's oft-cited 'scale' will translate into scale of a different kind: more marketshare.