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Three hundred million Apple iPhone 5s?

Apple has placed an order for 300 million parts for its iPhone 5. More than a few of those will no doubt make it into the enterprise.

A Shanghai parts manufacturer has received an order for 300 million units on the first run of the iPhone 5.

This is according to John Ross, chief technology officer of IT solutions provider GreenPages, who was speaking at its "Cloudscape" customer event in Portsmouth, N.H. Ross said a quirk of fate put him on a plane next to a Chinese businessman traveling from San Francisco to Boston. The man pulled out an iPhone 5 -- not yet released into the wild -- and fell to talking with Ross.

"He said their first run for Apple was 300 million orders for [the] first run of the iPhone 5 case." The man works at a plastic injection molder that manufacturers the clamshell backs of the new iPhone, said Ross, and he even had four or five other versions of the parts it supplied, apparently a final-stage prototype.

"You know what else he said? They cost him about $1 apiece to make," said Ross with a chuckle. He said the device was "fantastic" and that he thought the anecdote ably demonstrated a few axioms for today's cloud computing-enabled world.

"Any device, any application, anywhere," he said. Ross added that he thinks the boom in smart mobile devices like the iPhone is part of what's fundamentally remaking the IT landscape. As for the potentially astounding news that Apple thinks it will sell 300 million of the iPhone 5 when it hits stores this fall, he pointed out that a high percentage of the production runs won't meet Apple's quality standards, and the company will want a hefty reserve of spare parts for warranty repairs and the like. "So maybe they'll sell 100 million," Ross said.

The iPad, Apple's most successful product to date, sold 60 million units in its first six months of sales. Does Apple expect to sell 100 million iPhones faster than that?

Ross's take on the proliferation of smart devices, such as the iPad and iPhone, matches a growing consensus on what modern IT operations is going to look like. He said that IT staff needs to focus almost entirely on management and control, and must be able to support mobile devices and increasingly mobile users. "Work is becoming less of a place you go and more of something you do." he said.

Ross pointed out that he had an iPhone, an iPad and a laptop only because the iPhone was a bit small for running his virtual desktop, which he needs because the Apple devices can't do Excel spreadsheets yet. "I do a lot of work with pivot tables," he said. Pretty soon, all that capability is going to collapse into one device, Ross said.

The trend started in IT, he said, so it shouldn't be any surprise that end users were following and making, rather than removing, headaches for IT shops. IT has evolved to a fully available kind of operations mentality, from night shifts, being on call and pagers, to remote access and control, to smart devices, he added. Ross said IT is going to have accept that users can now do what only the technocratic elite (read: "the IT guys") could do before.

"We can get to our apps anywhere, anytime, drinking a Corona on the golf course. Why can't your users?" Ross said. If his airplane encounter was an accurate foreshadowing and Apple expects 100 million iPhones in the hands of the hoi polloi in short order, he is asking the question that every CTO or IT professional is soon going to hear.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer for Contact him at

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