In 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of Guinness Breweries, was involved in a drunken argument about which of Europe's many game birds could fly the fastest. Unable to settle the argument even after consulting a well-stocked library, he commissioned a new reference book that would be filled with the sort of facts that people routinely argue about over beer -- the fastest, furthest, most expensive, largest, and so forth.
Thus was Guinness World Records born, and it has continued to this day. Last year it announced that Microsoft's Kinect was the "Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device" ever. The Xbox 360's motion-sensing controller sold an impressive eight million units in its first 60 days on sale.
However, let's look at some other numbers relating to another consumer electronics device you may have heard of -- the iPhone 4S. The 4S was announced on October 4 and went on sale on October 14. Leading up to this, we know that iPhone 3GS and 4 sales were down based on the widely circulated rumours of the 4S release. So we know that most of Apple's iPhone sales for the quarter would have happened after the 4S was released.
We also know that Apple sold 37 million iPhones in total in the fourth quarter of 2011 -- in other words, from October 1 to December 31. Furthermore, survey firm Consumer Intelligence Research has produced credible analysis that suggests that 89% of those 37 million sales were of the iPhone 4S model. This is corroborated by the high average selling price of the iPhone reported in Apple's quarterly earnings report. An average of $659, above the iPhone 3GS and 4 price points, suggests that the majority of sales must have gone to the more expensive iPhone 4S models.
Finally, we know that Apple sold four million iPhone 4S handsets in the first three days it was available. Oh, and that there's 78 days between the date the iPhone 4S went on sale and the end of Apple's quarterly reporting period.
So to recap: the Kinect holds a genuine world record for selling eight million devices in 60 days. The iPhone 4S definitely sold four million devices in three days, and went on to sell as many as 33 million devices in 78 days. It seems extremely likely that somewhere between those two numbers Apple comfortably eclipsed Microsoft's 60-day sales record.
The only fly in the ointment I can see might be Guinness World Record's definition of "consumer electronics device." I'm not sure if cellphones are included, or if they perhaps have their own category. Several media sources such as the Telegraph took care to point out that Kinect outsold the iPad and the iPhone 4, which suggests that these devices were considered as part of the same category. If so, come the publication of the next volume of the Guinness World Records book -- the 2013 edition, due towards the end of this year -- we can expect to see Apple take Microsoft's place as the record holder.