The iPod turns 10

After Steve Jobs returned to run Apple in 1997, most people expected him to try to beef up its Mac PC line up. He did that with the iMac and other efforts. But 10 years ago today, Jobs and Apple took itself in a completely new direction with the launch of the iPod. The results speak for themselves. The media player quickly became a hot item as music lovers ripped out tracks off their CDs and placed them inside this playing card-size device.

Over the years Apple has released different versions of the iPod, including smaller Flash-based models like the iPod Shuffle and the iPod Nano.  In 2003, Apple launched the iTunes music store and its business model (99 cents for individual songs and $9.99 for whole albums) soon was embraced by the music buying consumer.

While some music purists might lament the "death" of the traditional album with its big cover art, the trade off was allowing more music artists, especially indie bands, a way to get the kind of attention that would be almost impossible in the older music publishing industry.

Later, some models of the iPod added video support and allowed customers to buy or rent movies and purchase televisions shows via iTunes. Once again Apple led the way to making digital versions of movies and TV popular among consumers. And let's not forget podcasts, iTunes and iPods let this new version of the radio talk show become more accessible and launched new careers for many people.

But is the iPod era finally ending? Apple's launch of the iPhone in 2007 would seem to be the catalyst for the eventual shut down of the iPod line. After selling well over 300 million iPods of various shapes and sizes in the last 10 years, Apple didn't bother to redesign any of its current line up of iPods this year (although the iPod Nano did get a user interface update for 2011 models).

The truth is that stand alone media players have lost their appeal for many, thanks to the release of the iPhone and other smartphones that can also play music and show videos. Why own a media player and a wireless phone when you can now have both, along with downloadable apps and more features?

We have seen this kind of technological progression in the past where something that seems cool and new is replaced with something else. Like the disk album, the cassette tape and the CD, the launch of the iPod made buying and listening to music easier. While the CD format is holding on for dear life, it's just a matter of time before it's retired completely.

That's exactly what will happen with the iPod as the iPhone and other phones move in on its territory, and it may happen sooner than some people think. Apple still continues to sell millions of iPods every quarter but there have been sales declines in the last few years.

Apple has now decided to put most of its efforts into making new and improved versions of the iPhone as well as making it more accessible by offering older versions for cheaper prices or even for free, with a two year contract.

While Apple might continue to sell some versions of the iPod for the next few years (especially its smaller versions, the Shuffle and the Nano, which can be used while people exercise) it's doubtful that Apple will continue to sell the iPod, at least in its current form, by the time we reach its 20th anniversary.

Until that happens, let us remember how cool it was 10 years ago when the iPod went on sale. The click wheel, the screen and the relatively bulky size may seem primitive today but a decade ago it was the highest of the high tech. Even today, people ask others what kind of music is on their iPod. The idea is that such a list gives us a glimpse into that person's life and personality.

Perhaps that is the device's biggest achievement. Music has always been a way to define a person and the iPod gave a way for people to quickly access that part of their life without having to hold on to big stacks of CDs or tapes. Steve Jobs led the company into becoming the single biggest seller of music period, retail store or otherwise. Again, while some things have been lost in this transition, we believe that music fans gained so much more thanks to Jobs and the iPod.

Is the iPod era over? In some sense yes, as the stand alone iPod now seems obsolete to some. But the basic idea of storing music in a small storage and portable storage space will remain for a long time to come, even as Apple and other companies try to embrace the cloud server as a new storage medium. 

The iPod is an achievement that is just as important to entertainment as the record player, the radio, the motion picture theater and the television. All of those mediums still exist in some form today and all had a great impact on the technology we are accustomed too.  

Image via Wikipedia

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16 Comments

It would appear that it was a good thing my seven year old iPod bit the dust, and thus causing me to purchase a new iPod Classic 160 gig.

And, yes I looked at all the new stuff out there, however, other then the Zune I really didn't see anything else that was has nice.

I still have my iPod 4G (the one just before the video/colour screens) and every year or so I get it out to remind myself about it, and I always find that as a music player the click wheel / list interface is still better than the touch screen implementations for actually listening to music.

Obviously it's not as good for displaying finer details, but most peoples music players live in their pocket and they just want to be able to put the music they want on fast, and for me the click wheel is still the best at doing that.

I had one in high school, got the iPod 4th gen (non video, but it was color), and got it for $75 new. I sold it 3 years later for $40. Then I moved onto devices that actually had good sound quality (Cowon S9, Zune HD)

I like my iPod Classic 160GB. Great battery life, and nearly enough room to store all my music collection on it.

Just a shame the headphone socket recently went faulty.

My original iPod Classic bit the dust just over a year after I bought it (my fault, as it took one too many knocks, and I was foolish to not have a case for it); thankfully, Apple agreed to replace it for free. Now that was a very high point for Apple.

Now I'd like to bring up the negative point of iPods, and that's the repair costs when something goes wrong. It's been just over two years since I originally bought the iPod now, and about 11 months since I got this replacement. Sadly, Apple only give 90 day warranties on replacements/repairs, so I'd have to pay them to get the headphone socket repaired. Do you know how much this would cost? £127. Now for comparison, there are several iPod repair centres in the UK that'll do the job for £40 using the same part. And to do it myself, the part costs just £4.95 (which, BTW, is the headphone socket AND the hold switch, because of the way Apple designed the parts, so if one of those two goes wrong, both have to be replaced), and the toolkit costs £2.70; so £7.69 to repair it myself.

Thanks to the abundance of instructional videos on YouTube, and my dad who's a bit of a dab-hand at DIY (plus the fact that I've worked on my brother's PSP before ), I've gone down the cheapest route. So next week, my iPod will be back to 100%, and I'll have spent bugger-all to fix it. ^_^

Nothing beats my iTouch. Better/more apps than the Zune HD I owned, plus I can connect to hidden wireless networks; something MS *should* have done with the Zune HD but never did when I owned mine.

As far as going away, I don't think Apple will let it go or they will give up their share to other companies. Many people still use one that either can't afford an iPhone or aren't old enough to have one.

I also still have my 60 GB 5g iPod (the video one) and always enjoyed hearing the clicking sound when scrolling the wheel.

I owned a iPod 4g 40 GB (2004), iPod 5g 30 GB (2005), iPod classic 80 GB (2007), iPod touch 1g (2007) and iPod touch 2g (2008). The iPod touch still worked brilliantly after three years, but it got stolen a month or so ago. Because I own an iPad 2 and smartphone I didn't see much point in getting a new iPod touch. Not to mention the fact I was really missing the iconic classic iPod design with click wheel. So I picked up a brand new iPod classic 160 GB two weeks ago!

Couldn't be happier with it!

.Neo said,
I owned a iPod 4g 40 GB (2004), iPod 5g 30 GB (2005), iPod classic 80 GB (2007), iPod touch 1g (2007) and iPod touch 2g (2008).

What did you need all those iPods for?

Coi said,

What did you need all those iPods for?

With the exception of the iPod touch 2g 32 GB I sold all of them at very good prices once I knew the line-up was about to be released. In many cases I sold them only few days before the refresh so I was able to get the grand price for them. The iPod classic 80 GB I sold prematurely because I wanted an iPod touch (1g, 16 GB).

My first iPod was way back with the iPod mini 4GB followed by iPod video 30gb, iPod touch 1g 16GB, iPod touch 3g 64GB and iPod touch 4g 64GB. I think my iPhone has taken the place of my iPods as I never found much of a use for them anymore. Still prefer the original click wheel compared to the touch.

My first MP3 players were those CD based ones back around 2000/2001. I remember really wanting an iPod but with no iTunes for Windows and being broke as a college student didn't permit it.

Windows Mobile 2003 was my next media player. Around the end of 2002 I purchased an HP iPaq PocketPC 1940. I remember really loving the device, but I had to cram all my music to about 100MB due to the limited storage (I had a 128MB SD card at the time).

iPod 20GB "Click Wheel" (not sure which generation that was...3rd?). Loved it.

Cowon D2 4GB w/ 2GB expandable. Hated it. Horrid user interface.

Zune 80GB. Loved it, but liked the iPod navigation more.

And it has been iPhones from then on out as far as portable music for me.

Never had an iPod/iPhone and never will. I just don't see the lure in expensive products from Apple. I agree they do the job well, but my phone plays music and while it isn't perfect, it works well and I can put stuff on it easily without having to mess with iTunes.

Funny that the world questions if iPod device era is over and quietly await them to disappear, yet Microsoft stops making the ZuneHD and the world says it is the end of Microsoft.

Amazing mindless sheep don't even realize how skewed their view of the world is.

thenetavenger said,
Funny that the world questions if iPod device era is over and quietly await them to disappear, yet Microsoft stops making the ZuneHD and the world says it is the end of Microsoft.

Amazing mindless sheep don't even realize how skewed their view of the world is.


Yeah like making a fuss over the ipod being around for 10 years but we make no mention of the first portable mp3 players that actually started this in the first place

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