If they forced partners (ie, carriers/retailers) to buy inventory, then there may be some legal improprieties there. But otherwise, a sale is a sale. MS and Samsung don't sell direct to consumers (for the most part). Their customers are their retailers, so yes, a sale is a sale when the inventory is transferred to the carrier or retail partner.
Now, is it misleading? Yes. Of course people want to know the actual units sold to customers, not those sold to retailers. But the retailers aren't required to divulge that info. Notice, when pressed by the analyst Samsung never actually said exactly how many units were "sell-outs" since they don't have to. They know the number, but are under no obligation to share it.
If people aren't actually buying them it means they won't be able to push two more million to the already saturated channels next time. It does matter.