Yellowcake, Yellow Journalism and Android

In 2006, Vanity Fair summarized how the Bush administration orchestrated a series of thinly disguised propaganda moves to justify the invasion of Iraq:


The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed

The Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful “black propaganda” campaign with links to the White House.

There were innuendos, Congressional committee “testimonies,” off-the-record briefings, “experts” on TV, Italian connections and enough subterfuge to justify a decent Hollywood movie.

But most of all, there were journalists writing and talking about it everywhere. Without the benefit of fact checking. As “the world soon learned,” the U.S. went on to invade Iraq and, regardless of what you think about that decision, the cost in human lives and treasury has been devastating.

What color is Android?

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Android? Despite the smartphone wars everybody’s talking about, no lives are at stake and nobody’s going to thermonuclear war over Android.

Here’s how the Android yellowcake was sold:


Amazon told us the Kindle Fire was their best selling product on Black Friday and now some early Q4 numbers have arrived. A new report from iSuppli estimates that Amazon will ship 3.9 million units before the end of the year and Digitimes says that number could climb to as high as 5 million.

In a “Report” entitled, “Amazon selling 2,000 Kindle Fires every hour” the mainstream syndicated a piece:

Looks like has a hit on its hands, even before its new tablet computer is officially released to consumers.

The Seattle company is selling pre-orders for its new Kindle Fire tablets at a rate of 2,000 an hour, or more than 50,000 per day, according to website Cult of Android, which has gotten its hands on what it describes as internal Amazon inventory documents.

If the report is accurate, and the pace continues, Amazon will have sold 2.5 million Kindle Fires prior to the Nov. 15 launch — outpacing the first month of sales for either the iPad or the iPad 2, according to the site.

which referenced a website called which referenced “leaked” documents:


Even the generally more responsible The Verge couldn’t help itself repeat verbatim those Kindle Fire numbers. Numbers neither it nor any other publication had, because Amazon just doesn’t bother reporting them:

Kindle Fire remains Amazon’s best-selling item, million Kindle per week sales continue

Amazon just announced that it sold more than a million Kindle devices per week throughout December — that includes the Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire tablet. As usual for Amazon, no specific numbers were given, but the company says the Fire remains its best-selling and most-wished-for item, marking some 13 weeks that the Android-powered seven-inch tablet has held the top spot.

Are we there yet?

Indeed, if you read about the Kindle Fire around that time in any number of print or online publications, the unmistakable impression you’d get was: the Kindle Fire was selling in record numbers. So well in fact that same journalists would soon start telling Apple to come out with a 7″ tablet of its own or lose the iPad head-start, just like it “lost” its iPhone advantage.

And yet no journalist had any concrete evidence of the yellowcake: actual Android units sold. Not from Amazon, not from Samsung, not from HTC, not from Google…Nobody has actual Android unit numbers sold, quarter after quarter, in one of the biggest and most lucrative markets anywhere, which they’re supposed to be covering. No journalist has had the gumption to ask Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos or Google CEO Larry Page, “Sir, have you no sha, err, sales numbers to give us?” And keep asking until Amazon and Samsung and HTC and Google tell us just how well they are doing. Where’s the yellowcake?

I am, of course, not the only one on Twitter who objects to this charade of corporate secrecy in the name of openness:


Isn’t it time honorable journalists asked Google, whose mobile operating system was created primarily to harvest users’ private info, to report just how many Android units are actually sold every quarter, lest they be labeled yellow journalists carrying Google’s water in a link-baiting game?

11 thoughts on “Yellowcake, Yellow Journalism and Android

  1. Perhaps the reason that no one gives actual numbers is that money has to be transferred for every android item sold (whether from Google or the OEM’s to other companies), so anyway of glorifying w/o identifying will remain the status quo.

    I’ve never looked at an ad on my phone before, but with Google having to pay for every free android issued, as its market grows at what point does android begin costing google money. And no motorola is not going to do much good, like Apple with the original Mac or IBM with thier AS series, they road the dinosaur into irrelevancy. Think Google was trying to buy them for the patents thinking they could block or defend themselves from Apple and others w/o realizing that all of the patents had been contractually licensed (they’ve tried twice to undo, or pressure other Tier 1’s and have been slapped down for it.) So google bought a $12 billion dying company, while samsung is making billions from a product that google has to pay other companies to give away. I think Android, more than anything else is why eric schmidt stepped down, they were making thier biggest ally thier biggest enemy, while at the same time making Apple and MS (frenemies), fighting for the public, working together in the back room as they both understand that google is the threat and they can peacefully co-exist and prosper at the same time (add in IBM and Oracle) and google picked a nice group of enemies.

  2. Sorry, you don’t know your history. You have been reading too much of the New York Times.

    1. The British government put out intelligence reports which said that Iraq was seeking yellowcake in Africa. They later said that the location was the Congo. If the British government claimed this, and never denied it, how can it be a lie?

    It was Charley Wilson who claimed that the location was Niger and he didn’t find any. There are many areas in Africa which produce yellowcake. How does visiting one prove anything?

    2. Five hundred and fifty metric tons of Yellowcake was found in Iraq’s nuclear facility. It was removed to Canada for safekeeping. How much Yellowcake did Saddam need? There as plenty of enriched U235 at the nuclear facility, just not enough for a bomb.

    Only the far left thinks the WMD argument was a lie. And nothing will persuade them. I am assuming you are merely ignorant, rather than brainwashed.

    Also, A top Iraqi general claimed that Saddam’s chemical weapons were trucked out of Iraq to Syria about two weeks before the invasion.

    A WMD attack on Jordan was foiled a year after Iraq fell. Where did the WMD come from?

    This issue may be proven fairly soon. Weapons stockpiles rarely stay hidden long. President Assad may use that WMD stockpile on dissidents.

    Again, the justification for the Iraqi war was never WMD: it was the fact that Saddam had broken his cease fire agreements which ended the Gulf War. So, the war was back in again.

    Saddam had broken 17 UN resolutions; thus turning the UN into a joke. I don’t like the UN, but if some tin pot dictator won’t obey its resolutions, then the UN should close up shop.

    • Your own snopes link says your claim is false:

      “The yellowcake removed from Iraq in 2008 was material that had long since been identified, documented, and stored in sealed containers under the supervision of U.N. inspectors. It was not a “secret” cache that was recently “discovered” by the U.S, and the yellowcake had not been purchased by Iraq in the years immediately preceding the 2003 invasion. The uranium was the remnants of decades-old nuclear reactor projects that had put out of commission many years earlier: One reactor at Al Tuwaitha was bombed by Israel in 1981, and another was bombed and disabled during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Moreover, the fact that the yellowcake had been in Iraq since before the 1991 Gulf War was plainly stated in the Associated Press”

    • Why do all these tech writers always try to make these political statements in their articles? Stick to writing about computers.

  3. Good comparison between “Yellowcake” and the Kindle Fire “sales” numbers.

    Amazon and Google are not the only culprits guilty of this type of manufactured “reality”.

    Remember Samsung after they started selling their first Android tablet, they loudly proclaimed to the media that they sold 5 million tablets in the first year. Later it turned out that they actually “shipped” (not “sold” to end users) about 200,000 units, of which no number was given for real sales.

    Then we also have Microsoft who hit up the media about how Nokia’s Lumia 900, running Windows Phone 7, was selling like hot-cakes, and that they couldn’t keep up with the demand. In truth, it turned out that they only sold a few hundred thousand since it went on sale, and sales were slowing to a crawl.

    Companies do this type of “fibbing” because they think that if they can convince everyone that their product is a hot-seller, then the public will rush out to actually but the devices. Unfortunately for them, real life doesn’t work that way, and those companies only end up losing credibility in consumers’ eyes.

    Apple so far, seems to be the only company selling mobile devices and computers, that provides actual sales numbers. And their numbers are not for “shipped” products, but are sold to end users.

  4. You lost me with the yellowcake, and the whole “Bush lied; people died” thing at the start. Then you have the ritual denunciation of the human cost of the war. Please. It doesn’t even amount to one battle in my neck of the woods (Spotsylvania, VA). You’d have made a better point at the beginning, assuming that you wanted to use a political illustration, if you had used the lack of vetting of Obama.

    As to the point about Google. Who cares? I use their search engine, and ignore the ads on the side. Most of their other products that I’ve tried are pretty bad, so I avoid them.

    • Yes. I too get ferociously irritated to everyone trying to shove their leftist viewpoints into an otherwise unrelated article about cell phone sales.

  5. I know Kindles are mainly reading devices, and don’t have 3G wireless to use the web, but what is website data reporting? How many Kindle users come to THIS blog? Is it possible 3G was kept out of the Fire to assist in the number muddling? This last bit is probably more about economics, but still.

  6. At Web 2.0 2011, about 3.5 months in as a tech reporter, I asked Sergey Brin after his keynote why Google stopped breaking out mobile as a separate section of its earnings reports. A year ago that quarter, it was sharing some numbers. Now, none. Why?

    In response, Sergey pulled an as-yet-unreleased Samsung Galaxy Nexus out of his pocket, the room was drowned in flashbulbs, and I then was squeezed out by the next guy behind me. I’m sure his question was mind-blowingly profound.

    • Android will come to an inflection point not too far out. Then, perhaps like Enron or yellowcake or derivates or LIBOR, respective journalists of tech equivalent will go through contortions to excuse themselves for ignoring the business fundamentals. That’s the optimistic outcome. :) I hope you get another chance to ask Page.

Comments are closed.