There are many reasons for calling the late Steve Jobs a visionary. Hear what he had said while revealing the whole new concept of iPod, a decade ago: “With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go” . He also said that “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” And now we are here, 10 years away from 2001 launch of iPod, and having the same experience.
As we know, iPod was only a beginning of ‘iSlated’ devices from Apple, which set standards for the consumer electronics industry and influenced the lives of millions of people. The tenth anniversary of iPod’s debut is an ideal time to discuss and dissect how this portable digital music player has influenced the world and its music chores.
1. Transforming the Consumer Electronics Industry
iPod has done what Walkman did to revolutionize analog audio. The compact, more-storage-capable and maneuverable digital music device quickly seduced the youth. Apple introduced its take on portable digital music player while the market was heading for more personal devices. Many devices like cameras and camcorders already had well-established brands while music segment was still in an amateur stage. Interestingly, it was not Apple which introduced the concept of portable digital music player in the consumer market. But it surely was the first winner, as it cleared out the inherent shortcomings in the existing players in the market and updated their product frequently. Its use of fire wire to transfer music and a well complimented iTunes took it to top in the market of digital music player section. It has also the advantage of being the first connected device to a range of software and online services. Consumers soon started gluing to the connected device with a ubiquitous access to content, which directed the consumer electronic trend likewise.
2. An Influential Design
The first thing anyone would notice about any state-of-the-art device is its appearance, where iPod has scored high. Jonathan Ive, the designer head behind the first iPod, was flooded with awards and accolades for his iconic design. This unique design, which has now been shamelessly copied by many other manufactures, was simple and aesthetically appealing. Also made of high-quality materials like stainless steel, it follows a firm sustainable design politics. Its intuitive navigation system is free from gratuitous buttons or wheels. Worth mentioning is the trademark white headphone of the device, which was a statement and, in turn, an advertisement for iPod itself. Unique UI and pocket-friendly ergonomics also aided it to be part of popular lifestyle. Within no time, Apple has changed the mode of purchasing, organizing, and listening to music, in a more pleasurable way.
3. The Changing Music Industry
iTunes has made a significant impact over the music industry over the last ten years, as it self evolved from a simple music management software. It’s now a multi-billion dollar online store that has agreements with all the major record labels. iTunes software hugely differentiated iPod from the competing portable music players in the market, though it had to deal with the initial allegations of encouraging piracy (probably true) until iTunes music store was launched worldwide. Apple efficiently marketed the possibility of its new online store for music industry and was able to convince all the major labels to license their music to iTunes. The USP of iPod was that they were able to convince the music industry that they have founded a controlled way to source income from online music purchase from the erstwhile free downloading customers.
4. The Accessories Market
iPod has created the market for thousands of establishments directly or indirectly. A variety of unique products and services has been associated with the flourishing of iPod. Its sheer efforts for including cross-media functionality (e.g. music, photos, video, etc.) have made people change their convictions about a consumer electronic device. The redefined attitude of consumers towards the device has created viable business of over multi-million dollar industry for supporting accessories. These will include speakers and headphones to in-car kits, covers, cases and skins. The novel range of iProducts has been a mutually beneficial affair for both. iPod sales had led to more accessories market, while more accessory availability encouraged more of them to buy iPhone ecosystem. The flexibility of iPod to connect with many accessories has paved the way for accessory manufacturers worldwide, and has amplified the mobile accessory industry.
5. Changing Consumer Perceptions of Apple
Apple was just a computer company producing high-end, but expensive, computers in the eyes of a common consumer before the iPod era. Though the introduction of iMac has increased its popularity, it still formed a classified product among Macintosh fans. But iPod brought to the general public Apple’s focus on the consumer rather than on raw technology. This philosophy worked wonders on the then ‘user enemy’ consumer electronics market.
This made Apple a household name among consumers where they can operate a technology without needing a PG education. iPod formed the cheapest gateway from the Apple to the customers due to its unique, suave and high-end consumer electronics range, which attracted more consumers to its branded products.
iPod’s success had a halo effect which led customers to replace their gadgets with Apple brand products, which thoroughly pushed Apple to the mainstream as of now. iPod’s and iTunes availability in Windows PC allowed a new vista of customers to Apple, which lead to a huge success for this media cross-platform product.
It’s a wonder how Apple has stormed into our active lives within ten years of its launch of iPod. We stand in awe before the massive storage, portable and compact music device costing around $399 a piece. It’s a very significant achievement considering that the initial market reaction was lukewarm. Many have predicted that iPod will not make it big, with its expensive price tag. But to the contrary, it has pushed back the other brands to redefine their policies and product standards. And by the time they succeeded, Apple was far ahead in the race; and still it is.