A decade ago, Apple launched an MP3 player which can be partly attributed to shaping the landscape of today’s mobile computing market. As well as being the best-selling portable media player and saving Apple from almost irrelevance, the iPod influenced many of Cupertino’s ambitious and revolutionary projects, bringing much of the industry into a permanent state of catch-up.
Apple’s iPhone gave birth to the smartphone as we know it and, despite Microsoft’s initial dabbling, continues to stand as the best-selling device of its kind alongside the iPad and tablet segments. Software-wise, the iTunes Store paved the way for digital music sales and represents the world’s largest music retailer, while App Store sales dwarf all the competition combined — Android included.
In fact, the iPod and related products prompted Apple to change its name from “Apple Computer, Inc.” Just “Apple Inc.” Irrespective of Apple’s every effort, we’d like to pay tribute to the company’s game-changing gadget on its 10th birthday. Join us as a short stroll down memory lane.
The first iPod was developed in less than a year and although it didn’t turn the music industry upside down overnight – in fact it received a lot of criticism – it did set the conceptual framework for things to come. Powered by a dual-core 90 MHz ARM-based PortalPlayer processor and a 5GB 4200 rpm Toshiba HDD (a 10GB version came later), the rudimentary device supports only Mac computers as well as AAC, MP3 and WAV audio files. . The first version of iTunes for Mac was released in January of the same year. Also: Check out the first iPod being introduced by Steve Jobs.
Apple’s second-generation music player arrived less than a year after the original device and brought a number of refinements, including a cover for the FireWire port, an improved hold switch, and double the storage capacity. It also abandoned the first-gen mechanical scroll wheel in favor of the touch-sensitive wheel used on many future iPods. This model introduced support for Windows via MusicMatch, before forcing tech-savvy users to use workarounds for Windows compatibility.
By April 2003, Apple underwent a complete redesign of the iPod, adding an all-touch interface, a dock connector, a slimmer body, and doubling the maximum storage capacity to 40GB. The company also brought its own media platform (iTunes 4.1) to Windows, breaking ties with Musicmatch. The growing popularity of the iPod prompted retailers Best Buy, Target and Dell to carry the device between 2002 and 2003. Microsoft and Creative framed their rivals, Media2Go and Nomad Zen.
After focusing on adding features to its original design, Apple went back to the drawing board and introduced a slightly minimalist iPod. The $249 iPod mini was the first to have Apple’s click wheel and only offered 4GB of storage. Despite its slimmer, trendy design, many criticized the device’s value. Around the same time, Apple replaced its $299 10GB iPod with a 15GB model, forcing retailers to reduce the 10GB model to $249. This made consumers even more suspicious of the Mini.
The first fourth-gen version arrived in July with a redesigned hold switch and the iPod mini’s click wheel. In October, Apple introduced a premium version called iPod Photo ($499-$599), which had improved battery life (15 hours versus 12), a color screen, and support for common image formats, notably for album art. was quite good. In February 2005, Apple replaced the 40GB iPod Photo with the thinner, cheaper 30GB model. By June, it decided to merge the iPod Photo and iPod “Classic” lines. (The picture shows the first U2 special edition iPod).
Further shrinking its media player, Apple introduced the first iPod Shuffle in early 2005. It only served as an entry-level model with 512MB or 1GB of storage and no display. Pricing was originally set at $99-$149. The second-gen shuffle came well over a year later. It was about half the size of its predecessor, with a belt clip and a more attractive aluminum case. Apple called it “the most wearable iPod ever.” Despite its smaller size, it doubled the storage capacity to 1GB and 2GB.
The second-generation iPod Mini landed shortly after the first Shuffle and offered an incredible 18 hours of battery life (the first Mini lasted 8 hours). It also offered a 6GB model with minor cosmetic tweaks. The Mini line was later discontinued in 2005 when Apple shipped the first iPod Nano, which was essentially a smaller version of the Mini (half the thickness and about 11mm narrower). However, it did have less maximum storage (4GB max versus 6GB) and a shorter 14-hour battery life.