After 20 years, Apple’s iPod is bowing out.
The company announced on Wednesday that it’s halting production of the portable music player, which isn’t a huge shock considering the device was last updated in 2019 and hasn’t really been mentioned by Apple since.
When the iPod was first launched in October 2001, it was still common to see people shaking their heads to music through thick headphones connected by cable to a portable cassette or CD player.
However, the iPod was not the first of its kind.
Other MP3 players were already on the market, but the combination of iPod with iTunes software, which Apple launched earlier that year, made the device a game changer.
When iPods were first introduced, Apple co-founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs stood in front of a PowerPoint presentation on a small stage in his ubiquitous black turtleneck, and talked about the devices. current portable music devices on the market.
Most cost between $70 and $150 and can only hold between 15 and 150 songs.
The first version of the iPod was priced at US$399 and with its 5GB of storage could hold up to 1,000 songs.
“For to have your entire music library with you to everything time is a quantum jump in listen for music,” Mr. Jobs said.
How the world reacted
Reactions to the device were mixed; some early online commenters lamented the introduction of yet another MP3 player.
The customer base for a first-generation iPod was also limited, as the device initially could only work with a Mac. Apple released a Windows PC compatible iPod seven months after the initial launch.
Some musicians also initially refused to make their music available on iTunes; AC/DC guitarist Angus Young told the The telegraph in 2008, one of the reasons the band was not selling their new album on the platform was that Apple allowed customers to buy individual songs instead of forcing them to buy entire albums.
But many, if not most, other musicians raised no objections, and the device’s available storage, ease of use, and sleek design won it an ever-growing following.
In October 2004, Forbes reported that the company had sold approximately 7.3 million iPods and that Apple derived more from iPod sales than from “any line of its computers”.
Three years later, in 2007, Apple announced the sale of its 100 millionth iPod.
When Mr. Jobs died in 2011, several heavyweights in the music industry reflected on the impact he had had with iPods.
Grammy Museum executive director Robert Santelli said what Jobs did with the iPod was as important as the invention of the phonograph.
“We relied on him as a world to show us how we listen to music and how we consume it,” Santelli said.
The evolution of the iPod
The current – and now definitive – design of the iPod is virtually unrecognizable from its first iteration.
The first-generation iPod was the size of a deck of cards and had a small black-and-white LED display with a circular panel of control buttons surrounding a scroll wheel below.
The device has undergone several transformations over the years.
Early versions retained the same shape and style as the original, with an emphasis on expanding available storage.
Then come the colorful LED screens and the ability to play videos.
Some of the best-known generations could be considered the iPod nano and the tiny iPod shuffle (the first iPod without a screen).
Despite competition from Sony, Rio and Dell, iPods dominated the portable music device scene for years.
But the 2007 iPod touch, which should have been revolutionary with its combination of touchscreen, camera, messaging capability and app store, was overshadowed by the release of the first iPhone earlier in the year.
And the iPods never recovered.
The beginning of the end
Apple’s first iPhone would be considered an unbearably slow brick by today’s standards, but in 2007 it was revolutionary – and it offered the ability to listen to music.
At the time, the iPhone’s music app was even called “iPod.”
Mr. Jobs referred to the iPod touch as “iPhone training wheels,” and the categorization was apt; the device was really a cheaper version of the iPhone with fewer uses.
The first iPad hit the market again in 2010, and in 2017 Apple discontinued the iPod shuffle and nano, leaving the iPhone-like iPod touch as the sole representative of the iPod lineup.
But Apple has never been afraid to cannibalize itself.
In 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook viewed self-cannibalization as a “huge opportunity” for the company.
“First, our core philosophy is to never fear cannibalization. If we do, someone else will cannibalize it, so we never fear it,” he said.
“We know that the iPhone has cannibalized some iPod-related activities. It doesn’t worry us, but it’s done.
In 2015, Phil Schiller, then Apple’s chief marketing officer, said it was “almost by design” that every Apple product had to fight for a spot among the company’s offerings.
Even though the latest updates to iPhones were far from groundbreaking, with new features mostly in the form of camera speed and quality, it was inevitable that iPods would end up on the chopping block eventually.
And with Apple predicting that the current global shortage of microchips will continue to hurt the company’s production and sales, it makes sense that now is the time.
iPods are still available for purchase while supplies last, but this week’s announcement brings a quiet death to one of Apple’s foundational products that has had a lasting effect on the way people around the world consume music today.