Apple’s new target: 12.8 million iPhones in 2008?

September 7, 2008, 2:30 PM UTC

“And this is exactly what we’re going to try to do in 2008, our first full year on the market. Is grab 1% market share, and go from there.” — Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

There’s been a lot of confusion about what Jobs meant when he set that sales target for the iPhone in January 2007. The giant screen behind him showed “10M units” — 10 million being roughly 1% of the nearly 1 billion mobile phones sold worldwide in 2006. But did Jobs mean that Apple would try to sell a total of 10 million phones in 2007 and 2008? Or did he mean 10 million phones in calendar year 2008 alone?

The timing question should have been settled once and for all when it was put directly to Apple COO Tim Cook and answered unambiguously: Steve meant calendar year 2008. (See the earnings call transcript here.)

But now a new wrinkle has emerged. The cellphone market has not stood still since January 2007, when Jobs gave the Macworld keynote speech that introduced the iPhone. Worldwide sales of mobile phones hit 1.15 billion in 2007 and is expected to grow to 1.28 billion in 2008, according to a report issued last week by Gartner, Inc. (see here).

So is Apple’s (AAPL) 2008 sales target still 10 million iPhones? Or is it 12.8 million, 1% of the current worldwide market?

That depends, once again, on what Steve Jobs said and what he meant. You be the judge. Listen to the relevant section of Jobs’ 2007 keynote, available here and pasted below, and decide for yourself.