When it comes to product inventory, there's a clear distinction between what's been manufactured and what's been sold. And sales figures also need to take into consideration other factors, such as returns, exchanges and retail inventory. That's why I'm raising an eyebrow at headlines today that suggest Apple has sold its 10 millionth iPhone, a milestone that would have exceeded the 2008 sales goals set by Apple.
Apple fans are so eager to see the company surpass its sales goal (and rub it in the faces of naysayers) that they've taken to their own methods of tracking inventories and calculating sales projections. There's a joint project underway that's taking product numbers on the boxes of iPhones sold and tracking them in a Google spreadsheet. By looking at the product numbers, one might be able to figure out what's been manufactured and what's been sold.
Fellow ZDNet blogger Jason O'Grady notes that Apple hasn't issued a press release on the milestone for this very reason - manufactured numbers are not sales. None of this is meant to say that Apple won't sell 10 million iPhones (and maybe has already). According to a report released by the NPD Group today, 30 percent of smartphone buyers this summer left their existing carrier to get the lower-priced iPhone 3G.
Shares of Apple are down by more than 8 percent in afternoon trading today.