The Most Successful Products in History

Microsoft Teams growth in Monthly Active Users

by Eric Goldman

2022-01-09

What’s the single most successful product in our history? Most of you probably answered that with the iPhone, right?  While it’s difficult to find an exact number for how many iPhones have been sold since its introduction in 2007, it’s more than 2.2 billion today. 

But that makes it number two! The number one best seller of all time is the Bible. It’s estimated that more than $0.5 billion is spent on bibles EVERY year, with more than 3.9 billion sold in the last 50 years alone.  But it’s also true that the bible is not considered a product by anyone other than the publishing trade. I’ll exclude it from this post for that reason.

With that said, yes, the iPhone is the #1 selling product. Its nearest competitor to the title has “only” sold millions!

Let’s also consider the rate of uptake. The iPhone started shipping in June 2007 and sold 270,000 in its first week. The number reached one million a little over 2 months later, and about 144 million iPhones were sold in its first four years. (Stats from here). But these numbers actually relegate the iPhone to #2!! Not in total units sold, but in uptake, as one product pipped the phone by going from zero to 145 million in 4 years. Can you guess what it might be?

Cars? 

The list below shows the top ten best-selling cars as of 2013. An old list, but this is a slow-moving industry. In absolute numbers, the winners are:

Car Sales
1. Toyota Corolla 37.5
2. Ford F-series 35
3. Volkswagen Golf 27.5
4. Volkswagen Beetle 23.5
5. Ford Escort (UK) 20
6. Honda Civic 18.5
7. Honda Accord 17.5
8. Ford Model T 16.5
9. Volkswagen Passat 15.5
10. Chevrolet Impala 14

 

VW did well with 3 models and more than 75 million cars on the list, and hats off to GM. If they can sell 14 million Impalas, imagine what they could have done with Teslas! If you’re curious about these electric upstarts, Tesla delivered more than 1 million cars in 2021, and has sold more than 2.5 million vehicles to date. More than 1 million model 3s were sold by the start of 2022.

But, none of these are the world’s most successful car. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold 16.5 million Model Ts. It was the first car to ever to sell more than one million units, and then 5, 10 and 15 million. It was estimated that by 1914, nine out of ten cars in the world were Fords! if you factor in the world’s population back then—1.793 billion versus today’s roughly 4 times that, the Model T is the most successful car ever sold.

If the #2 top seller isn’t a car, what is it?

It’s not a book, but the list of top ten books is surprising:

#1 – Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes, (500 million copies). Talk about a long shelf-life: it was published in 1605.

#2 – A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens (200 million)

#3 – The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien (150 million)

#4 – The Little Prince . Antoine de Saint-Exupery (142 million)

#5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. J.K. Rowling (107 million).  But, more than 500 million books in his series had been sold since 2020.

Here’s the complete list for books numbers 1 through 10

So what is #2?

Hard to say. For example, look at Pfizer’s Lipitor tablet. Lipitor belongs to a class of drugs called statins which are used to lower LDL Cholesterol. The patent for Lipitor expired in 2011, and since then generic equivalents have been eroding Pfizer’s marketshare, but before they lost the patent, some 35 million people in the US alone took Lipitor once a day! So more than 12.75 billion pills a year were consumed in America alone. But I think the product here is the treatment, the script, not each pill. So 35 million a year for 14 years makes it about 490 million prescriptions. Not as many as Harry Potter novels, in other words.

How about electronic games? As of September 2021, 344 million Sony Playstations had been sold.  And the individual games for it and the other gaming consoles? Many titles have more than 1 million players. That makes Angry Birds one of the superstars at 102 million users. But the prize here probably goes to Mario Bros. whose franchise now boasts more than 260 million players, beating out Minecraft‘s 238 million players.

How about regular games? The Rubik’s cube probably takes that award at around 350 million cubes sold by the end of 2019.

Movies? The Star Wars franchise overtook Gone with the Wind only with the release of Episodes 1 and 2 twenty years after the release of the first one, Episode 4. Total revenues for the saga’s movies, is now around US$4.6 billion. Hard to say how many ticket sales that represents, but using an average price of $10 suggests its around 460 million. Seems light to me, so perhaps it’s higher than the books above.

Music? The #3 best selling album of all time is The Eagles, Hotel California, with 26 million sales. #2 is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, with 34 million sales, and #1 is The Eagles’ Greatest Hits (1971—1975), with 38 million copies sold. How about the number of albums sold by any one group? The Beatles claim that prize with around 257.7 million sold up to 2016. Second? Elvis! with 203.8 million and then Michael Jackson with 169.7 and Madonna with 164.4, million.

And, roll of drums please, the product with the fastest pickup in our history? Microsoft Teams of course! Teams was introduced in late 2017 and had 145 million daily active users just 4 years later. Teams’ growth accelerated during the lockdowns of course, but it continues to grow as more and more people work from home.

The idea for this post came to me a few days ago, while reading a Microsoft press release concerning their revised way of counting Teams users. They reported the Daily Active User count in April 2021, as 145 million DAUs. Then in June 2021, three months later, they had a monthly active user count of 250 million MAUs! They added another 110 million users in three months? Keep your eyes on the hat, folks! 

According to some estimates, (here), the switch from DAU to MAU was a marketing sleight of hand, starting with what is a “user.” The DAU counted people who logged into Teams every weekday, and used Teams to chat on channels, share files, etc. But MAUs are counted even if all they do is log in once during the month and access one channel. MAUs thus include the 80 million users who occasionally use a telephony app within the Teams environment, and the 100 million students who use Teams on and off during a month. There are about 300 million users of Microsoft 365. And it’s safe to say that many of these users will continue switching to Teams over the next few years, and thus the number of DAUs of Teams will continue to rise.

I believe there are about 150 million real users of Teams today. According to Reference.com, about 13% of the world’s population speak English. Applying this percentage to Teams’s DAUs, yields a Total Addressable Market for Kippa—Fast and easy reminders for Microsoft Teams©, of 19.5 million potential users.

Thanks, Microsoft! We’re delighted to be a part of this exciting market opportunity.

Hope you enjoyed the post, please comment below!

Bit-by-Bit #190

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