Today in 2001, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod at a special event at Apple’s headquarters, telling the assembled reporters “This is a major, major breakthrough.” There were other music players on the market at the time but they were conceived as a digital Walkman. The iPod was designed as a pocket computer, with an operating system, a 5 gigabytes hard drive, and 32 megabytes of memory. The unusual amount of memory for devices of this kind at the time, helped extend the battery life to ten hours. The user interface had no equals. And as the first iPod used a high-speed Firewire cable, downloading 1,000 songs from the Mac (the only computer the first version worked with) took only 10 minutes, as opposed to the very slow USB connections of competing devices. “Plug it in. Whirrrrrr. Done,” Jobs told Fortune.
But perhaps the most important element in the iPod’s success was that, just like other successful computers, it was introduced as a “platform” running numerous applications, thanks to the iTune software which was first made available in January of 2001 (bolstered in 2003 by the introduction of the iTune Store). The iPod platform or “ecosystem” spawned numerous new applications and types of uses (and users). A good example are “podcasts” which became “the hot medium for disenfranchised former radio hosts and comics… who set up studios, recorded shows without fear of censorship or sponsor outrage, and became even more popular than they were before.” Today, Wikipedia lists ten major categories of uses of Podcasts, from public services (e.g., audio tours of museums and cities) to education to alternative content.
George Lang: “Jobs was at the fore of many of the greatest innovations of the past 30 years, but his most important achievement was to make computers feel like extensions of their users’ personalities. The iPod was a simple box, ready to be filled with all of a user’s favorite things.”
Another CNET article, published a few days ago, summarized the 10-year history of the iPod: “Customers snapped up more than 125,000 iPods in the first two months it was on sale. Sales continued to grow, more than quintupling in some cases, peaking when Apple proceeded to run through four consecutive years of people buying more than 50 million iPods.
That same ecosystem was bolstered by the simultaneous growth of Apple’s iTunes software, an integral part of the iPod sales machine and Apple’s hardware and software combination. All told, Apple has now sold more than 320 million iPods since launching it a decade ago, as well as increasing its lineup to multiple form factors, colors and capacities.”