A few years ago it would’ve been only the insane and the insanely prescient who were predicting that Apple (s aapl) would replace RIM (s rimm) in terms of world mobile phone market share. Now it doesn’t seem that outlandish, but the question of how soon we’ll actually see it happen remains up in the air.
According to a new financial analysis company, Trefis (via Forbes), the iPhone will pass BlackBerries in 2011. So as of next year, the iPhone will supposedly overtake RIM’s varied line of smartphones, despite offering far less in terms of consumer choice, and being limited to only one network in major markets like the U.S. So how’s that supposed to happen?
Before we get to how, let’s look at why Trefis thinks this information is important. If you’re looking to buy Apple stock, then it’s very important indeed. Trefis estimates that around 52 percent of Apple’s stock value is dependent upon its mobile phone business, so that as the iPhone’s global market share continues to grow, the stock price will climb accordingly. They have a neat little tool that illustrates this, and you can set your own prediction to see how it affects the model.
It’s neat, but it’s also a gross oversimplification. Even without considering the potentially market-rearranging effect the continuing emergence of Android might have on mobile phones globally, other factors like the iPad will probably have a disproportionately large effect on the stock price of Apple in the coming months. Marketing hype definitely inflates consumer expectation and hopefully appetite, but it also misrepresents how important a product is to a company’s future.
If Apple does overtake RIM, however, it will mark a significant milestone for the iPhone, and one consumers should be wary of more than anything. As a disruptor of the status quo, Apple innovates, and innovates well. Once it reaches the top of the pile and subjugates its competition, that doesn’t necessarily continue to hold true. A victory over RIM in the mobile phone market could lead to a stagnation of iPhone innovation, something the minor updates to the iPhone 3GS were hopefully not a sign of.
The iPhone can overtake the BlackBerry by continuing to expand the markets in which it is available, and by going with multiple carriers in places where it only has presence with one or two so far. It may have seemed unusual to hang on to single-provider models for this long, but now it’s in a much stronger position in terms of negotiating with others. It’s also begun to grow its share in the enterprise, where the BlackBerry has traditionally held sway.
2011 could indeed be the year of the iPhone, but I’m hoping RIM makes a comeback before then to stoke the fires under Apple and stave off any impending complacency that might crop up.