The iPhone to rule the mobile space (if the mobile space is exactly like desktop computing)

Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, who's well known in the world of Internet stocks, led a team that has put out a series of colorful charts and graphs about how the iPhone rules the mobile computing market so hard. A lot of these charts represent iPhone trends that we've noted before -- like the fact that iPhone users make up a portion of the mobile Web-surfing population all out of proportion to the percentage of global phone or even smartphone users that they represent. And then there are some of slides that are just kind of funny, like this random Venn diagram showing that some people use iPhones, and some people use Facebook, and some people use iPhones ... and Facebook!

But much of the attention has been quite rightly focused on a slide comparing iPhone adoption to other first-out-of-the-gate Internet things: Netscape, AOL, DoCoMo's i-mode. The graph, which shows, how much more rapid the iPhone's take-up has been -- with eight times more users nine quarters after launch than AOL had -- has been enough to make people ooh and aah over the phone's nigh-unassailable position, at least for the next few years.

Except ... well, except maybe the things being compared on this graph aren't the same things, at all? AOL was a desktop Internet service, i-mode is an restricted mobile Internet service, and Netscape was a browser that you didn't have to pay for. Presumably the dynamics are all very different! And: it's also comparing raw numbers of users, rather than market share. In 1996, AOL only had 7 million customers -- but what portion of the dial-up ISP market did that represent? A pretty hefty one, I bet! Probably heftier than the iPhone's market share! I mean, I'm all for using data from the past to make predictions about the future, but maybe narrow your category beyond "computer-y Internet-y things," and normalize for the size of the market?

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