The iPhone will be the Perfect Storm of the mobile industry
-Said by someone in all likelihood.

The Perfect Storm has become a cliché, a buzz phrase used by businessmen and politicians to describe some big event. I have not seen the film, but from the reviews above and general feelings I heard when it came out it was a middling performance film with incredible effects. Now, a little more than seven years after its release, the title of the movie is a metaphor for anything which might sweep some industry up and carry it quickly from default to profit or vice versa. These days you might hear on the news about the “perfect storm of diet pills” or the “perfect storm of campaign reform.” The metaphor is not unreasonable in most cases; it refers to something sweeping in and changing things, being large and in charge. But what is unreasonable is how it is used and how it is currently over-used.


Calling something the perfect storm refers usually to how uncontrollable that thing is with respect to whatever company or politician is sponsoring it. The iPhone was a "Perfect Storm" according to some hype-spinners, the housing market is experiencing its own "Perfect Storm," especially the sub-prime lending market. The phrase simply describes something that seems to possess all the raw power of gale-force winds, 30 meter waves and pounding downpour. Generally the phrase is used neutrally with respect to the benefit or detriment it has to the person using the phrase. Tiger Woods, during this year’s British Open, needed a perfect storm, and didn't get it. Beekeepers are under the weather of their own perfect storm. A startup R&D company can brew a "perfect storm" in their industry.

The problem is that "The Perfect Storm" happens once, maybe twice, in a lifetime. This overuse has lead to the diminishing of the phrase's impact. This coupled with the neutrality of the phrase's use makes it equally confusing. If you hear that Wall Street had a "Perfect Storm" there is roughly a 50/50 chance that the market tanked or the Dow-Jones Industrial went up 200 points in the afternoon. One might expect forecasters to begin terming every other balmy day with sunshine and a breeze as "The Perfect Storm of Pleasant Days."

It says something about the widespread usage of the phrase that Merriam-Webster is adding it to the dictionary. The definition they use is one that points to the “disastrous confluence of forces” definition that the movie and Junger promote. As this is fairly recent it may yet have a stabilizing influence on the meaning of the phrase, but it will probably not stop the overuse that had made it the perfect storm of calling this, that or the other thing "the Perfect Storm."