A Taste for Feet · Jun 9, 07:53 AM

I enjoy poking fun at execs who make bold predictions about Apple’s potential. The biggest blunders in that regard are Michael Dell’s infamous “give the money back to the shareholders” quote 10 years ago and Steve Ballmer’s assertion that, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Comparing AAPL to DELL over the last 10 years shows just how wrong Michael Dell was. Steve Ballmer didn’t need nearly as much time to look like a fool.

Anecdotal evidence makes it obvious that the iPhone has gained significant market share but exactly how significant? It’s hard for a POCWACTSO to do the same kind of analysis that a so-called investment insider might do, but here’s what I have found…

I’ve read a couple of articles that have repeated Microsoft’s Windows Mobile licensing numbers. For their 2006-2007 fiscal year, they sold 11 million Windows Mobile licenses. It also says that Microsoft expects to sell 20 million Windows Mobile licenses in the current fiscal year which ends this month. Now, these are OS licenses and Windows Mobile is not limited to phones. I’m sure the majority of those licenses ARE for phones but the number does include PDAs.

If that is the measurement standard then we need to include the iPod touch numbers in our count when we make our comparisons. But Apple doesn’t break out those numbers. They’re lumped in with the iPod. Fine. We’ll just stick with the iPhone numbers for now. In the last 3 quarters, Apple has sold 5,137,000 iPhones. The current quarter (which ends around the same time as Microsoft’s fiscal year) is up in the air. With the 3G iPhone’s anticipated release today, they will have missed almost a full month of potential sales because of their supply problems. That said, demand is building and the expectation is that Apple will have a LOT of the new phones available for sale immediately after today’s announcement. That will give them 3 weeks of blockbuster sales before the quarter ends.

So let’s look at two sets of numbers for comparison.

Rather than trying to estimate how many devices they’re going to sell in the current quarter, let’s just go with what they sold the last 3 quarters and compare it to what Microsoft says they will have sold in their fiscal year. 5 million to 20 million. In spite of supply constraints, a limited number of countries, carrier exclusivity arrangements and ignoring both iPod touch sales and any iPhone sales for the current quarter, Apple still manages to have a respectable 25% of Microsoft’s numbers.

Now let’s take some liberties to make some more reasonable estimates.

As everyone is already well-aware, Apple is expected to release the 3G iPhone today, and this time it’s going to be a nearly worldwide release. If the rumors are true and Apple is staging these things for immediate availability everywhere, I would expect them to sell at least 3 million of them in these final 3 weeks of June. I’m betting they’ve sold at least a million of the current generation models in the two months prior to its disappearance. And since we don’t have any actual numbers for the iPod touch, I’m going to pick a relatively small number out of thin air and say that they’ve sold 1 million of them in total since they were released. That puts Apple’s totals a little over 10 million… 50% of Microsoft’s numbers.

I’m betting they’ll pass Windows Mobile’s numbers by June 2009.

— Matthew Sparby

Commenting is closed for this article.