Here’s a nice slice of Apple trivia for you: The original iPod happened fifteen years ago today, on October 23rd, 2001.
Nine months after the American tech giant introduced iTunes as a music software, then-Apple chief executive and co-founder Steve Jobs took the stage to announce the portable MP3 player that acted (somewhat predictably) as a precursor to the iPhone and iPad and revolutionized the way we listen to and buy music.
It changed Apple forever, too. The iPod made it possible for Apple to pivot from a personal computer company to a consumer electronics company, where the action is — and where the money is to be made.
Here’s an excerpt from Job’s presentation; his self-confidence isn’t misplaced:
‘Now, why music? Well, we love music. More importantly, music is a part of everyone’s life — everyone. Music’s been around forever; it will always be around. This is not a speculative market… But interestingly enough, in this whole new digital music revolution, there is no market leader… No one has really found a recipe yet for digital music. And we think, not only did we find the recipe, but we think the Apple brand is going to be fantastic, because people trust the Apple brand to get their great digital electronics from.’
The former Apple head went on to describe the iPod as a “quantum leap in listening to music.” The first iPod had enough storage to fit 1,000 songs at CD-quality; had 20 minutes of skip protection; offered 10 hours of music playback.
Most important of all was that it could ride shotgun in a person’s pocket. “This amazing little device holds 1,000 songs. And it goes right in my pocket,” Jobs quipped, throwing shade at companies like Creative, SonicBlue, and Sony and their bulky, unattractive music gear. The first iPod went on sale for $399, but people gobbled it up.
Music will always be around; the iPod won’t.
Apple sold its millionth iPod in 2003. In the years that followed, the company introduced other iPods of varying colors, shapes, sizes, and functionalities. By 2010, Apple had sold 275 million iPods. But that same year, Tony Fadell, the guy who created the iPod, left Apple.
Apple has stopped reporting financial figures of the iPod entirely. Sales are on a decline, and consumers are no longer excited about them. Apple probably feels the same way we do because it hasn’t touched the iPod line since last year — an eternity in the industry. The iPhone is its flagship product now, accounting for more than half of Apple’s revenue.
It hasn’t stopped selling iPods in its stores, though. Surely, there’s still a market for them, however small and insignificant. But the question isn’t if Apple will eventually discontinue the iPod, but when. Music will always be around; the iPod won’t.