Macromedia CEO gets his numbers wrong


I heard this twice today - once in an email and once in person. Here's what Macromedia CEO Robert Burgess said to Knowledge@Wharton:

When I look at the consumer market as an example, there are about a billion and a half phones out there today. Maybe 20 million of them have Flash - or any kind of sophisticated multimedia capability. In five years, there will likely be 5 billion phones out there - and most of them will be multimedia. So I feel like we're at the very beginning stage of that market. Over five years, Macromedia could have an opportunity to have businesses in consumers and business users that are at least as large as the designer/developer business is for us now.

Yeah, these numbers are completely, horribly wrong. As someone who has an unhealthy obsession with these sorts of numbers, I was completely taken aback when I had not one, but two people repeat them to me today.

Okay, let's start with the obvious one. In 5 years (2009) there will be around 2.5 billion mobile phone subscribers out there, not 5 billion. Check out the chart above and follow this link to a summary of the EMC report.

As for the "multimedia" phones. Well, this could be up to interpretation. Obviously what Burgess is talking about is "phones capable of running Flash Lite" which is substantially less than what I would call multimedia phones - i.e. any phone capable of sending a Multimedia Message (MMS). If you consider all the DoCoMo phones sold with Flash and the 15m+ Symbian phones out there (and the negligable number of other smart phones), then maybe the 20m number is somewhat accurate, though hardly the right number when talking about multimedia phones.

Back in July, CNet reported that 25% of all phones shipped this year would be Camera Phones. Since I've seen the numbers are on track to sell 650m handsets this year worldwide, that means there are at least 165m camera phones out there, not including what was sold in 2003. (Check out these and other facts at Camera phones are what I call "multimedia phones" as most are able to display graphics, sounds, pictures, Java games, and many times music and video.

Now, the assertion that by 2009 almost *all* the phones will be multimedia phones - which by Macromedia's definition means smart phones - is again completely exaggerated. Though I would love to see a massive shift over the next five years, reading Symbian CEO David Levin's presentation at the Expo a few weeks ago, the total numbers of Symbian phones will only be in the few hundred million. Not too shabby, but not anywhere near the "all" number above.

All this said, I've seen the latest Flash Lite and it's astounding. If Macromedia can do with Flash Lite on the handsets what they did with Flash on the browser, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Reading that article at Wharton, however, you'd think Macromedia had the client on hundreds of millions of handsets already (like Java already is) but it's not! And Macromedia keeps dragging its feet, so god knows when it will be a viable platform for developers. So kudos for being on the right track, but no credit until they get their numbers right and the client shipping worldwide (not just to i-Mode and some European T-Mobile subscribers).

Anyways, I thought I'd make this correction so I don't hear this again. This sort of nonsense being out there affects *my* business.


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