Just like the motorcar changed the world of transportation, the telephone changed the world of communications, and the computer changed the world itself, Apple Inc's iPod will be looked at many decades in the future as the turning point for the music industry. With its slick design and simple interface, it took MP3 players into a new realm of popularity.
In 2001, Steve Jobs held a private, invitation-only music event for members of the press and long-term Apple evangelists. In the presentation, he stood up on stage, pulled an unassuming device out of his pocket, and started talking about how it would forever change the way that the world listened to music.No one listened.
In fact, the technology industry laughed at Apple's first iPod, calling it an overrated device that was unlikely to catch on. With its Firewire-only transfer limitations and high price point, everyone from experienced journalists to gadget bloggers called the iPod a failed experiment in product design.
That was, until it became an unstoppable success. After several generations and numerous upgrades to its design and musical storage capabilities, the iPod rapidly became the world's most popular and successful MP3 player. With its ever-increasing popularity, new models were released to cater to the discerning demands of MP3 listeners, including the discontinued iPod Mini and iPod Nano.
Part of the success of Apple's iPod was its timing – it was released at a point at which the musical world was slowly transitioning from CDs to online cloud-based music stores. But part of its giant sales figures is the device itself – its user-friendly design, which set it apart from other early MP3 players; its large storage allotment, and its synergy with Apple's own iTunes software.
One of the key reasons for the iPod's success is its desktop counterpart – the iTunes music manager and online store. Stocked with millions of songs, audio clips, and even educational lectures, iTunes is now the world's largest music store. While it's now available to all users, it was originally an iPod exclusive release, incompatible with other music players or any competitors' devices.
Today, the iPod is in its twilight years, rapidly being replaced by Apple's own new products such as the iPhone and iPad. As former CEO Steve Jobs explained, Apple's focus was never on preserving its own successes. Instead, the company viewed its biggest products as markets to be cannibalized with innovation and development, instead of preserved through anti-competitive tactics.
While the iPod may eventually fade from Apple's product lineup, its legacy – and, in fact, its major functions – currently live on in Apple's other devices. The iPhone and iPad, both Apple's key mobile products, feature 'iPod mode' buttons in their user interface, allowing users to switch the devices to the layout and functionality that made Apple such an incredible success in the first place.
For a product to be truly incredible, it needs to make a mark during its lifetime and after it's gone. If there's any twenty-first-century product that's done exactly that, it's the iPod. An incredible success, both for Apple and for its users, it's one of the world's biggest and most visible success stories.
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