One of the most iconic products that catapulted Apple to global success and changed both the consumer electronics industry and the music industry was the iPod. Steve Jobs first introduced this device on 23 October 2001 and Fortune magazine labeled it as the “21st-century Walkman.” It underwent a series of changes throughout the years.
However, after selling around 450 million units throughout the span of 21 years, Apple announced on 10 May 2022 that it discontinued the entire product line with the latest generation of the iPod Touch sold until supply lasted.
The iPod might be dead due to obsolescence and the changing trends in the consumer electronics and digital music markets. Still, no one can disagree that it was a revolutionary product and a modern cultural artifact that disrupted relevant markets and helped Apple become one of the most important and infamous tech companies in the world.
Appreciating The Legacy of iPod: From Making Apple As One of the Top Tech Companies Ro Revolutionizing the Music and Consumer Electronics Industries
Instrumental in Helping Apple Become a Global Brand and a Household Name
One of the notable impacts of the iPod is its role in making Apple a successful tech company. Remember that the company started as a designer and producer of desktop computers in 1976. The Macintosh line of computers received critical acclaim and a considerable market traction during the 1980s. Apple was making a name for itself.
However, Microsoft also introduced the graphical operating system Windows in 1985 and it further banked on this flagship product with the release of Windows 3.0 in 1990 and Windows 95 in 1995. The company also entered into licensing agreements with different desktop computer manufacturers to further push its operating system in the market.
Windows soon dominated the market and most desktop computers were running this operating system. Apple experienced a significant decline from 1990 to 1997 in terms of market share and revenues. The company was even on the brink of bankruptcy in late 1996 until Steve Jobs went back to become its chief executive and restructure the organization.
Some of the salient orders he made were to cancel non-performing products, venture into numerous acquisitions to improve its intellectual property portfolio, and invest in research and development to explore new products and market opportunities. One of the products that emerged under the leadership of Jobs was the iPod.
In terms of how it made Apple a successful multinational tech company, the legacy of the iPod centers on how it bridged the gap between the identity of the company as a computer manufacturer and its reputation as a technological innovator developing and introducing diverse products ranging from hardware and devices to software and services.
The device was also instrumental in strengthening and magnifying the brand name of Apple into the mainstream. The market success of the iPod paved the way for consumers to enter the expansive Apple ecosystem for the first time. This product was key in pushing other existing and future products to the consumers and creating strong brand loyalty.
Revolutionized the Music Industry and Disrupted the Digital Music Market
Part of the legacy of the iPod was how it changed the way people listen to music. Note that there were numerous portable music players available in the market from other manufacturers. There were portable cassette players and compact disk players. The most iconic of these was the Walkman brand from Sony.
There were also portable MP3 players in the market beginning in the 1990s. These products gained significant market traction with the arrival of the new millennium. Apple saw an opportunity in this market and aspired to create its own brand of portable digital music players. However, it also aspired to provide additional value through differentiation.
An element of the business strategy of Apple is a combination of retroactive and proactive approaches to product development and market penetration. For the iPod, the company aimed to develop a digital music player that featured a unique user interface and differentiated user experience. Apple created an ecosystem centered on digital music.
Hence, in 2003, the company relaunched iTunes with the introduction of the iTunes Store. This software and service complemented the iPod product line. As a software, it was both a multimedia player and a platform for managing content. Furthermore, as a service, it is a digital content storefront for the iPod and other Apple devices.
The legacy of the iPod and its impact on the music industry faithfully followed the legacy of iTunes. Both products ushered in the era of digital music. Note that the iTunes Store sold about 275000 tracks 18 hours after it was launched. It also sold 70 million songs and dominated the paid digital music market a year after its introduction.
It is also important to note that the combined accomplishments of the iPod and iTunes as evident from its large consumer base helped digital music to equally rival the record sales of compact discs in the United States by 2004. Apple was responsible for more than 70 percent of sales in the entire legally obtained digital music market.
Another notable accomplishment of the iPod and iTunes is that both changed the distribution model of the music industry. Apple banked on the popularity of iPod devices and the convenience of the iTunes Store to compel music producers and recording companies to promote and sell their music through digital mediums.
The popularity of these two iconic Apple products also helped reduce digital music piracy. The iTunes store provided not only convenience to listeners but also data rights management for music producers and artists. The company restricted the sharing of purchased and downloaded tracks on devices outside the registered devices of a particular consumer.
Helped In Ushering the Era of the iPhone and Smartphones and Other Devices
It is also important to consider the success of the iPhone as part of the legacy of the iPod. The portable digital music player fundamentally made the iPhone possible in numerous ways. For starters, note that the first generation of the iPhone launched in January 2007 borrowed design and usability principles from the iPod.
The devices have been notable for their intuitive user interface. The first iPod took pride in introducing a new method of navigating through the music library using the iconic click wheel. The iPhone also introduced a new method for users to interact with a touch-enabled smartphone. Apple upheld this straightforward design principle across its products.
However, the actual role of the iPod in making the iPhone possible rests on both hardware and software architectures, as well as on the emerging Apple ecosystem. Steve Jobs described the first iPhone as a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. Apple fundamentally designed and built this smartphone on concepts first seen on the iPod.
Apple capitalized on the existing user base of both the iPod and iTunes to promote the iPhone. Jobs even noted that the users of the portable digital music player were already familiar with how to set up the new smartphone. Note that the iPhone needed iTunes when it first came out. The phone complemented the existing Apple ecosystem.
The company also had an experience in building and managing a digital storefront. Remember that the iTunes Store was a digital store for purchasing content. iPod users were already acquainted with how digital content ownership works. This helped in promoting the App Store. The digital storefront for apps defined the iPhone and other Apple devices.
Of course, the impact of the iPod transcended beyond the iPhone. Its popularity compelled designers and manufacturers of smartphones and mobile operating systems to focus more on entertainment features and use cases centered on content consumption. Hence, modern smartphones allow users to store multimedia content and play games.
The End Of An Era: A Note On The Legacy Of iPod And Its Contributions, As Well As The Future Of The Digital Music Industry
One of the contributions of the iPod is that it saved Apple from decline and probable demise. The product was instrumental in cementing the reputation of the company as an innovator and in making the Apple brand one of the resilient symbols of modernity. Furthermore, it was also responsible for pushing Apple beyond the confines of computer manufacturing.
The iPod is also a cultural artifact. The marketing strategy of Apple allowed this device to change how people listen to music and music producers and artists distribute their works. Of course, there were other portable music players in the market. But the iPod stood out because of a combination of technology, design, and complementary products and services.
Apple was not lying when it said that the spirit of the iPod lives on. Some aspects of the device and the technologies behind its creation remain present in different Apple products. iTunes is still the primary storefront for purchased music while Apple Music is a reminder that the company is one of the leaders in the digital music industry.
How exactly the iPod changed the world? Remember that its success allowed Apple to gain the needed resources and momentum to develop and introduce the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple Watch. These three products are game-changers themselves. Furthermore, the marriage between a device and a storefront helped save the music industry.
The same marriage between consumer electronic devices and an online-enabled store for purchasing and downloading digital content became the default model across the consumer electronics industry. The Android operating system and devices running it depend on the Google Play Store. The same is true for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Apps.