"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

History Lesson: iPhone Sales Will Exceed All Expectations

Interesting piece posted in Gizmodo by Wilson Rothman this morning - History Lesson: iPhone May Sell Fast, but not RAZR fast - which says that although 500,000 - 600,000 iPhones were sold over the weekend, Steve Jobs expects to sell only 10 million in the next 18 months.

Rothman goes on to point out that Motorola's RAZR sold 50 million in its first two years. He think Jobs is likely right that the iPhone won't achieve that, and attributes the slower growth to iPhone being perceived as being in the "smartphone" category, which has lower sales than more general cell phones.

I think that's an astute assessment - but I disagree.

First, a little background.

The evolution of media never runs smooth, and in fact is often wildly unpredictable when it comes to diffusion of new media into the general population. The telephone itself took 75 years to get into more than 50 percent of American homes - that didn't happen until the 1950s. In contrast, television was in 90 percent of American homes by the end of the 1950s - just 10 years after its commercial introduction.

The Soft Edge by Levinson The reasons that some technologies catch on much more quickly than others vary. In the case of the telephone, the problem was that your phone did you no good unless people you wanted to talk to also had phones. The telephone, in other words, lacked the necessary social infrastructure at first - it had to be built, from the ground up. In contrast, once you had a television set, it didn't matter whether your friends and sister across town also had one. And the social structure of simultaneous, instantaneous mass media - of sitting in your living room every night and being entertained, with countless anonymous others entertained in their living rooms - had already been constructed by radio.Cellphone by Levinson

I'm predicting sales of iPhones will go through the roof, and defy expectations. The reason: the iPhone's infrastructure is already here, and robust. It is the Web, and all the services on it. All the social, economic, political, aesthetic, cultural, etc doings of the Web are grist for the iPhone.

It's a trip not to an uncharted land, but to a city already open for business and teeming.... It is now the best of telephone, and will soon be the best of television.

See also - Hats off to George Hotz ... iPhone Arrives - I Predicted It in 1979 and iPhone Boosts Literacy and iPhone: Not Better iPod But New Species of Media ... Nano iPhone and the Dymaxion Principle ... Harry Potter and iPhone ...

and ... I'll be talkin' iPhone on my weekly KNX1070 Sunday interview, 7:20am Pacific time, July 8

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


Unknown said...

not bad, considering apple has a 55% gross profit margin on these phones.

Paul Levinson said...

Nothing wrong with profit.

And the pursuit of it will lead Apple to drastically lower the price at some point, so that larger numbers of people will be able to buy iPhones.

The first video recorders for home televisions, for example, went for $1800 or more. Now DVD players are under $100.

Anonymous said...

I think you are spot on.

I remember when Jobs unveiled the iPod photo: he said that people would make use of the photo viewing capability because they already had the content - their photos. Obviously the same went for the original iPod, people already had all their content to go - music. Interestingly, Jobs did say that video wouldn't be good on an iPod because there really was no content out there. So what did he do when he released the iPod 5th Gen? He made content easily available: TV shows, Pixar shorts and music videos, all on iTunes.

And so it is with the mobile space. As you say, the content is already there - the web. All that is missing is a super-portable and intuitive device that lets people access that content on the go. Nature abhors a vacuum. iPhone will fill it quickly.

Paul Levinson said...

Exactly, David. Well said, and welcome to Infinite Regress...