A lot of people seem to be hung up on 'how many' iPhones Apple will sell.
Steve Jobs is responsible for this, by stating that Apple was aiming to sell 10 million phones by the end of 2008, and get 1 per cent of the market.
One thing I will say is that it's uncharacteristic of Steve Jobs to make unrealistic claims (well, at least when it comes to sales figures). He's a big exponent of the 'under-promise and over-deliver' school of thought. My old boss used to drive the same ethic into his staff. If Steve Jobs says 10 million, he probably thinks 20 million.
Lance Davis, over at The Register, has an interesting take on this, he says:
"The vast majority of those phones are super cheap. The smartphone category, which is closest to iPhone territory, is very different. Symbian has sold 100 million smartphones in the last 10 years. BlackBerry hasn't reached the 10 million figure yet. It's a bit like saying the world car market is 18 million cars so McLaren can sell 180,000 because that's only one per cent. In practice, it sold 28 cars last year."
The thing is that the 10 million figure is pretty hard to believe. The iPhone isn't cheap and - cool factor aside - it does little that other smartphones do. Albeit in an infinitely more sophisticated way. But 10 million? Damn that's a lot of phones.
Mind you. Is the iPhone really a smartphone? While being smarter than the avergage phone, it certainly doesn't have much in common with the Treos of this world. Maybe it's wrong to put it in that category either. Sorry to sound so fawning but maybe the iPhone really is a new type of device: one that's 'part mobile phone, part widescreen iPod and part breakthrough internet device' - just as Jobs said. One that we don't have a name for yet but soon will do when all the imitators come along.
I've tried out most smartphones and really don't enjoy using them. The idea of having a tiny hand-held WiFi web surfing device appeals to me. Other people seem taken by the widescreen, touchscreen iPod. Apple claims that the killer feature is making calls - although, oddly, this is the one thing that interests me the least about the iPhone. But it's bound to appeal to enough people.
Will the iPhone be successful? I'd bet my last penny that it'll be infinitely better to use than any other phone I've ever owned. Will it sell 10 million. I reckon so. I don't know how, but I've been watching Apple long enough to know that bold claims tend to look mild in retrospect.
Will the iPhone be a failure if Apple fails to sell 10 million? Steve Jobs may have egg on his face, but I'm sure he'll survive. In my mind it'll be a success if they sell just one, to me.