Bernstein Research's Toni Sacconaghi thinks Apple has a good thing going with the iPhone line. So good, in fact, that he recently predicted iPhone sales could top 50 million handsets in less than two years.
(Let's pause for a moment to put that number into perspective: Fifty. Million. iPhones. A device that didn't even EXIST before 2006. That's the equivalent of one out of every four Americans happily chirping "Yeah, there's an app for that." Or: if an iPhone were a dollar bill, that's how many iPhones Quentin Tarantino spent to make INGLORIOUS BASTERDS…)
Here's how Sacconaghi reasons it out: The smart phone market has grown 35% over the past two years, so even if there's a drop to, say, 27% over the next two years, Apple can still hit the fifty mil mark. Additionally, AT&T's exclusivity death grip on the iPhone will end sooner or later, so (f'rinstance) a Verizon-branded iPhone alone could easily ship eleven million units by Ought-Eleven. And Apple's recent (non-exclusive) deal with China Unicom will definitely pump up the numbers. Never mind the fact that widespread iPhone availability could poach sales from a carrier's other handset lines.