This Wednesday, Apple Computer will announce its financial results for the last three months, and as always, the company will disclose the number of iPods sold to date. Last quarter, over 42 million iPods had been sold, and analysts now conservatively anticipate actual sales in the 8.5 to 8.8 million range. From there, the math is simple: on Wednesday, we should expect to hear that over 50 million iPods have been sold since late 2001.
If this happens – and we think that it will – there are two reasons Apple will have pulled off an unbelievably impressive feat.
First, the 50 million mark is generally reserved for truly famous products; household names that people still remember 20 years after they were introduced. As just one example, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, said to be the best-selling album of all time, is the only one estimated to have sold over 50 million copies worldwide over its lifetime; his other albums haven’t come close. Back when iLounge started, we thought the iPod was amazing, but could anyone have guessed back then that it would be in this league?
And so quickly? Even if Apple barely missed the 50 million mark, the speed of the iPod’s growth would still be staggering. Sony took over 10 years to sell its 50 millionth Walkman, noting that it had shipped 50 million by the device’s 10th anniversary.
Similarly, according to Mobile Ecosystem, it took around 12 years for multiple brands of wireless phones to collectively reach the 50 million mark, and more than 15 for computers or TVs to do so. By contrast, the iPod would have done it in only 5 years even if it took Apple until this November; 4.5 years if earlier.
Going forward, our biggest concern is how further iPod growth will be achieved: will Apple try and sell multiple iPods to the same old customers, or expand the iPod’s userbase and appeal to reach even more people? We’re obviously hoping for the latter; in our view, expanded international sales will be one key to making this happen. But even if not, this week’s sales milestone will be something no one can ever take away from the iPod – leadership by a factor of miles and hours, not inches and seconds, won through innovation and continued improvement.