What The iPad Mini’s Up Against: Asus Reports Nexus 7 Sales Approach 1 Million Per Month

Asus CFO told The Wall Street Journal late Tuesday that the Nexus 7, Google’s well-received, affordable 7-inch Android tablet was nearing 1 million in sales per month, having picked up the pace considerably over the last month in particular. Chang noted that unit sales rose from roughly 500,000 around the time of its introduction in June/July, and rose steadily after that. Tablet sales for Asus beat analyst expectations, likely as a result of the Google-branded Nexus device, which got an update earlier this week in terms of base storage specs at both price points.

The Nexus 7 sales, which would seem to end up totalling somewhere around 3 million based on the figures Chang shared, might be the glimpse yet we’ve had at the current size of the small tablet market. It’s a stat that will prove important for those watching the tech industry going forward, as Apple’s iPad mini debuts this upcoming Friday, and following that we’ll likely get more info from Cupertino about how iPad mini sales have fared so far, if the company sticks with its usual pattern of release early sales figures post-launch.

The Nexus 7’s success might be the most concrete standard against which to compare its progress, as there’s precious little data out there about how others have done in the smaller tablet market. Amazon has been notoriously quiet about Kindle Fire sales thus far, noting recently that the iPad mini announcement “tripled” sales of the Fire HD, but not talking about specific sales volume. An estimate by Asymco’s Horace Dediu from the end of August put sales figures for the Kindle Fire’s first nine months on the market at around 5 million units, however.

On the Apple side, the company sold nearly 60 million iPads during its 2012 fiscal year. But that’s a different market, one that Apple forged itself. How the iPad mini performs remains a separate question, even though Apple on stage at its event last week framed this as essentially a way to replicate and continue that existing success. Still, the iPad mini goes on sale in many more countries with an ecosystem that’s much more globally available than its small tablet competition, so it’s fair to assume Apple will beat competitor device sales, but by how much remains a key question.

Regardless of how the competition fare, the Nexus 7 sales numbers are promising for both Asus and Google, in a market where any individual manufacturer’s Android-powered tablet hardware has had trouble gaining a decent foothold. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nexus 7 line picks up even more momentum now that Google has updated its base specs, and will soon add more software features, like user account switching, via Android 4.2.