• Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

iPod turns 20: How Apple’s music player changed the world, then died out

Twenty years ago, on October 23, 2001, Apple announced a new product called the iPod, in the midst of what it called “a digital music revolution”.

Back then, MP3 players couldn’t hold many songs, and although devices with hard drives could hold hundreds of songs, they were still relatively large and difficult to use.

When Steve Jobs, then Apple’s CEO, first introduced the iPod, he claimed it would be a “quantum leap”.

“This amazing little device has a thousand songs in it, and it goes right into my pocket,” he said.

The iPod ultimately changed the way millions of people listened to music (whether legally or through pirating), but Apple knew the device would slowly be cannibalized by the very product for which it threw the badges. basics – the iPhone.

The iPod has an undeniable heritage – and some models still sell for high prices among collectors – but the future of the device is more uncertain than ever.


A mixed reaction

The first iPod had a hard drive with five gigabytes of storage and cost $ 895 in Australia.

Analysts had mixed feelings at the time; some were concerned about the price, but others noted improvements over other brands’ music players.

Following the iPod announcement, CNET reported that technology analyst Tim Deal believed Apple had tried to follow in Sony’s footsteps after the success of its Walkman and Discman music devices.

“It’s clear that Apple is following Sony’s lead in integrating consumer electronics into its marketing strategy, but Apple does not have the richness of Sony’s product offering,” he reportedly said.

“And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be offered at an attractive price.”

YouTuber and former CNET reporter Brian Tong said accessibility was also an issue at the time, due to Apple’s iTunes music software.

“Back then, if you didn’t have a Mac, you couldn’t use it… It wasn’t a popular device until Apple opened up iTunes to PC users.”

Some analysts viewed the original iPod as just an MP3 player, while others praised the device’s relatively small size and innovative user interface.

What many hadn’t anticipated was the impact the iPod would have on music piracy once it became available to more people.

The first iPod had five gigabytes of storage and cost $ 895 in Australia(Unsplash)

“Don’t steal music”

Music consumption turned to digital files in the late 1990s, amid the rise in music piracy via file-sharing software such as Napster.

In 2001, the original iPod was packaged with a sticker on its screen that read, “Don’t steal music.

This hasn’t stopped many iPod owners (just like owners of any other MP3 player) from downloading pirated content and transferring it to their devices.

“There was no main store to go to, there was no iTunes store to begin with, there was no Apple Music store,” says Tong.

In 2006, former Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris reportedly said iPods were “just repositories of stolen music, and they all know it. So it’s time to get paid for it ”.

There have been calls for an “iPod tax” to be added to the price of MP3 players in some countries, to compensate music rights holders.

Such a levy affected Canadians for over a year, but was ultimately ruled illegal, while some European countries still impose private copying levies on the sale of MP3 players.

“As iTunes became a store where people could buy music, it helped reduce piracy,” Tong said.

“But it took a long time to change people’s habits.”

Despite the increase in piracy, Apple managed to grow its music download business, but the future of the iPod changed dramatically when the iPhone arrived in 2007.

A collection of Apple iPods stand in a display case at an Apple museum in Prague
A collection of iPods in an unofficial Apple museum in Prague(Unsplash: Christine Sandu)

Sales drop soon after iPhone launch

IPod sales made up more than half of Apple’s revenue in the first quarter of 2006, but sales of the music player began to plummet shortly after the iPhone launched in June of the following year.

Two years later, Peter Oppenheimer, then Apple’s chief financial officer, said the company had already predicted iPods to experience a year-over-year decline.

“This is one of the original reasons we developed the iPhone and iPod Touch,” he said on a conference call with investors.

“We expect our traditional MP3 players to decline over time as we cannibalize ourselves with the iPod Touch and the iPhone.”

iPods as collectibles

Jason Lindsey is a Seattle-based iPod collector who runs the popular MetalJesusRocks YouTube channel.

He’s collected 30 different iPod models and thinks he’s only missing two versions of the device.

“My favorite thing about buying a used iPod is finding someone else’s music collection on it, and often finding music that I don’t usually listen to.

“I bought a used iPod Nano from this big creepy guy in a parking lot, only to get in my car and find it was full of all the Britney Spears, Spice Girls and Madonna albums.”

A collection of various Apple iPod models over the years, laid out on a gray surface
Jason Lindsey collected almost all iPod models(Provided: Jason Lindsey)

Older iPods are still sold at high prices to collectors if they have not been opened or are in perfect condition.

“I was amazed to find that a working first generation iPod often sells for hundreds of dollars …

“It says a lot about the nostalgia, but also the beauty of the design of this still-regarded technology.”


The legacy of the iPod

Apple has reportedly sold more than 400 million iPods since 2001.

Along the way, the device has helped accelerate the mobile consumption of music, video, photos, and games that we see today – where virtually all of the world’s media is available on your phone.

Brian Tong believes the legacy of the iPod is still visible in iPhones today.

“When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone, he said, ‘It’s a phone, an iPod and an Internet communicator.’

“And people were like, ‘What ?!’ Everyone panicked.

Apple’s colorful ads for iPod have also become iconic and have bolstered the profiles of musical acts like Daft Punk, The Fratellis and The Ting Tings, as well as Australian bands Jet and Wolfmother.


The uncertain future of the iPod

At the time of publication, the only iPod Apple still sells is the latest generation of the iPod Touch, which has not been updated since 2019.

Some iPod die-hards were hoping that a Special Edition would be released this month to coincide with the device’s 20th anniversary – some have even created their own device concept – but nothing has been rumored and nothing has happened. official has not been announced.

So, is there a future for one of the most important products ever created by Apple? Brian Tong doesn’t think so.

“There is a group of enthusiasts out there who would love to see an iPod Classic come back, but it’s not enough to move the needle,” he says.

“A lot of times people pass their phones on to their kids to turn them into Internet devices and music players.

“I think there is no more room for the music player, and that’s okay because everything we have is already there [on our phones]. “

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