The first line of the groundbreaking Apple iPods were released on October 23, 2001, approximately 8.5 months after iTunes was released. The unexpected announcement of the portable music player was a major turning point for the world of digital music and Apple as a company.
When Steve Jobs, Apple’s now deceased CEO, was given the first prototype of the iPod, he told the engineers who had worked on it that it was too large. He was told that with all of the technology that was packed into it, it could not be made any smaller. Upon hearing these words, as the story goes, Jobs dropped the prototype in a fish tank. As air bubbles rose out of the drowning iPod, Jobs told engineers that if there was air, there was space, and insisted that they make it smaller. This perfectionism started a revolution in digital music technology.
The iPod was not completely embraced by the general public at first because of it’s “Mac only” status (iTunes was not yet available for Windows users) and its high price tag of $399. Since it was also not the only MP3 player on the market at the time, many were skeptical of its effect on the industry. A New York Times article from the day of the iPod launch said, “It’s a nice feature for Macintosh users, but to the rest of the Windows world, it doesn’t make any difference.” Aside from the skepticism, the iPod began to garner attention because it was able to hold 1,000 songs and boasted 10 hours of battery life – something no other MP3 player at the time could do. These factors, along with its ability to transfer songs quickly from your computer and it’s small size made the iPod turn into a mass market product, selling 125,000 units by that Christmas.
In the summer of 2002, the iPod phenomenon began to take off when they made a Windows compatible version of the device which held up to 4,000 songs. Apple launched the iTunes music store with over 200,000 songs for just 99¢ in April of 2003 along with their third generation iPod which was their lightest version yet and capable of holding 7,500 songs. By June 2003, Apple sold it’s one millionth iPod. By the end of 2003, that number doubled. Sales began to skyrocket and by the end of 2004, Apple had sold 10 million iPods. By 2010, a staggering 275 million iPods had been sold. The iPod Touch with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities was introduced in 2007, and the most recent version of the Touch introduced in 2012 has 16, 32, or 64 GB worth of storage space, and has an audio battery life of up to 40 hours.
In recent years, the iPad and iPhone have overtaken sales of the iPod, with iPod sales only making up 8 percent of Apple’s revenue. While the future of the iPod is uncertain, its legacy is something that will go down in history.