Farewell to the iPod – The New York Times

The iPod was born with a modest goal: We create a music product that makes people want to buy more Macintosh computers. Within a few years, it would change consumer electronics and the music industry and lead Apple to become the most valuable company in the world.

First arrival in October 2001, the pocket rectangle with the white face and polished steel frame weighed 6.5 ounces. It came packaged with white earphones in a custom color, moon gray, and contained 1,000 songs.

It exploded in popularity in the following years, creating what became known as the iPod generation. For much of the 2000s, people wandered the world, with headphones dangling from their ears. The iPod was ubiquitous.

On Tuesday, Apple officially said goodbye to all of this. The company announced that it has phased out its production Ipod touchending two decades of a product line that inspired the creation of the iPhone and helped transform Silicon Valley into the epicenter of global capitalism.

Since introducing the iPod in 2001, Apple has sold about 450 million of them, according to Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm specializing in technology research. Last year it sold about three million iPods, a fraction of the roughly 250 million iPhones sold.

Apple assured customers that music would survive, largely through the iPhone, which was introduced in 2007, and Apple Music, a seven-year service which testifies to modern customer preferences. The days of buying and owning 99-cent songs on an iPod have largely given way to monthly subscription offers that provide access to larger music catalogs.

The iPod has provided a model for Apple for decades, packaging unrivaled industrial design, hardware engineering, software development and services. It also showed how the company was rarely the first to market a new product, but it often triumphed.

In the late 1990s, the first digital music players began to appear. Early versions could hold a couple of dozen songs, allowing people who originally copied CDs to their computers to transfer those songs into their pockets.

Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple in 1997 after being expelled more than a decade earlier, saw the emerging category as an opportunity to bring modern appeal to Apple’s legacy computer business. Diehard music fan, who ranked the Beatles and Bob Dylan among his favorite artists, Mr. Jobs thought that tapping into people’s love of music would help convince them to switch to Macintoshes from Microsoft-based personal computers. which had more than 90 percent market share.

“There was no need to do any market research,” said Jon Rubinstein, who was leading Apple’s engineering at the time. “Everyone loved music.”

Mr. Rubinstein helped spur product development by discovering a new hard drive made by Toshiba during a trip to Japan. The 1.8-inch drive had the capacity to store 1,000 songs. In essence, it made possible a digital player the size of a Sony Walkman with far greater capacity than anything on the market.

The development of the iPod coincided with Apple’s acquisition of a company with MP3 software that would become the basis for iTunes, a digital jukebox that organized people’s music libraries so they could quickly create playlists and transfer songs. It fueled Mr. Jobs’ vision of how people would buy music in the digital age.

“We think people want to buy their music on the Internet by buying downloads, just like they bought LPs, just like they bought tapes, just like they bought CDs,” he said. he said in a 2003 speech.

At the time, a service called Napster was haunting the music industry, allowing people to share any song with anyone around the world for free. Mr Jobs approached the problems of the music industry by commercializing the ability of new Macs to rip CDs with the commercial slogan: “Rip. mixing by burning “. The campaign put the music industry in Apple’s corner, according to Albhy Galuten, a Universal Music Group executive at the time.

Mr. Galuten said the labels eventually agreed to let Apple sell songs on iTunes for 99 cents. “We folded because we didn’t have leverage,” said Galuten. “The easiest way to fight piracy was convenience.”

The $ 399 price of the first-generation iPod dampened demand, limiting the company to sales of less than 400,000 units in the first year. Three years later, Apple released the iPod Mini, a 3.6-ounce aluminum case available in silver, gold, pink, blue, and green. It cost $ 249 and contained 1,000 songs. Sales exploded. By the end of its fiscal year in September 2005, it had sold 22.5 million iPods.

Apple has amplified the power of the iPod Mini by making iTunes available for Windows computers, allowing Apple to introduce its brand to millions of new customers. Though the ploy would later be heralded as a stroke of business genius, Mr. Jobs held out at the time, former executives said.

Soon, iPods were everywhere. “It took off like a rocket,” said Mr. Rubinstein.

However, Mr. Jobs pushed Apple to make the iPod smaller and more powerful. Mr. Rubinstein said the company has stopped production of its most popular product ever, the iPod Mini, to replace it with a slimmer version called the Nano which started at $ 200. The Nano helped the company nearly double. unit sales to 40 million in the following year.

Perhaps the iPod’s most important contribution was its role as a catalyst for the creation of the iPhone. As cell phone makers started introducing devices that can play music, Apple executives worried about being overridden by better technology. Mr. Jobs decided that if that happens, then Apple will do it.

The iPhone has continued to tap into the blend of software and services that made the iPod such a success. The success of iTunes, which enabled customers to back up their iPhone and upload music to the device, was mirrored by the development of the App Store, which allowed people to download and pay for software and services.

In 2007, the company ditched its long-standing corporate moniker – Apple Computer Inc. – and became simply Apple, a six-year-old electronics behemoth.

“They showed the world that they had an atomic bomb and five years later they had a nuclear arsenal,” said Talal Shamoon, chief executive of Intertrust Technologies, a digital rights management company working with the music industry at the time. “After that, there was no doubt that Apple would own them all.”