Why Selling “Only” 8 Million iPhones Won’t Be a Big Deal

Recently there has been a little buzz swirling about the fact that Apple is on pace to fall short of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008. Last week, a New York Times article noted, “After almost a year of strong sales that have made it one of the dominant smartphones in the United States, the iPhone has settled down to a less-than-spectacular pace: roughly 600,000 units a month, according to the company.” Now, never mind the fact that Apple still sold over 1.7 million iPhones last quarter. That number was down from the previous quarter, but the previous quarter was the holiday quarter, making a direct comparison, well, pretty much worthless for mostly obvious reasons.

And just yesterday, MSNBC’s Gary Krakow said in a video that Apple will need to license RIM’s Blackberry OS or Windows Mobile for the iPhone in order to gain market share in the business world. Gary says that Apple needed to do this because, in a nutshell, while Apple has done well in the smart phone market as a whole, they haven’t done well with businesses, and in order to do well in business they have to adapt a competitor’s OS. Is this guy serious? Never mind the fact that Apple’s iPhone roadmap event in March outlined the new business-friendly features coming so to iPhones near you, which should make the iPhone more attractive and more useful to big businesses.

 Just… just watch the video and prepare to be completely astounded by the insanity of it all. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, I digress.

The bottom line here is that whether Apple meets a certain sales figure just doesn’t matter, even if Steve Jobs himself set the 10-million-iPhones-sold goal. In the end, the only people who will really care about whether Apple misses 10 million iPhones sold are those who want to see Apple fail.

I don’t think we’re going to see Steve Jobs lose sleep if Apple sells “only” 7 or 8 million iPhones in 2008. Consider this: Apple had zero share of the cell phone market a year ago. Today, they have around 20% of the US smartphone market, according to IDC. That’s down some from the holiday quarter (October-December 2007), but still, going from zero to roughly 20% of US smartphone sales in less than a year is nothing to sneeze at. And it goes without saying that if Apple unveils a 3G iPhone next week as expected, we’ll see sales get a big boost.

Apple has laid a great foundation with the iPhone. It’s a great gadget that has been praised by almost anyone who has used one. Customer satisfaction is very high. And there are new goodies in the pipeline that are sure to make the iPhone even more drool-worthy.

Personally, I think Apple will reach 10 million iPhones in 2008 despite the slow-ish start to this year. After all, it has only been available in a handful of countries to this point, and it’s possible that some are holding out for the 3G iPhone (which, as I mentioned earlier, would probably give iPhone sales a shot in the arm). But even if Apple sells, say 8 million iPhones in 2008, I think it would still be a success. What’s important here is that Apple is building a strong foundation to build upon in regards to the iPhone. It’s still early in the iPhone’s development, and since it’s so early, straight sales numbers are not as important as building a strong foundation so that the iPhone can be an even better option for consumers a year from now. 

Anyway, that’s my take. What do you say? Does it really matter that Apple sell 10 million iPhones in 2008?

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