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Samsung Galaxy TabLast week we reported that Samsung had sold 2 million units of its Galaxy Tab Android tablet, but now it looks like that may not be the case, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The 2 million figure apparently refers to Galaxy Tab units that the company has shipped to retailers and wireless companies, not units to actual customers, Samsung’s head of mobile marketing Young-hee Lee revealed in its earnings call on Friday.

It’s not unusual for companies to give out shipment numbers, but most take care not to confuse those with sales numbers to consumers. Microsoft, for example, announced last week that it shipped 2 million Windows Phone 7 units, but it was clear to point out that those numbers didn’t represent devices in consumer’s hands.

When pushed by an analyst to reveal more accurate sales numbers, Lee said that sales to consumers were “quite small” — a statement that she’s probably regretting at the moment.

Lee used the terms “sell-in” to designate the company’s sales to distributors and “sell-out” to describe distributor sales to consumers, in her response to the analyst (as quoted by the WSJ):

Well, your question was on sell-in and sell-out. As you heard, our sell-in was quite aggressive and this first quarterly result was quite, you know, fourth-quarter unit [figure] was around two million. Then, in terms of sell-out, we also believe it was quite small. We believe, as the introduction of new device, it was required to have consumers invest in the device. So therefore, even though sell-out wasn’t as fast as we expected, we still believe sell-out was quite OK.

Samsung certainly faced an uphill battle against the iPad with the Galaxy Tab, so it might have been better off not announcing any numbers that could have been mistaken for actual sales. Now the company risks losing much of the good will it’s built up over the past year with the success of its Galaxy S phones. The news also puts into question the 10 million Galaxy S phones Samsung said it sold last year.

It’s also unclear what the news means for Android’s tablet market share. Earlier today we reported that  Android tablets chipped away at the iPad’s market share in late 2010 — but if those numbers were based on Samsung’s inaccurate Galaxy Tab sales, then the iPad may not have lost much ground at all.

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