It’s hard to remember, but 20 years ago Apple wasn’t a very cool company. Sure, OS X was intriguing, and the Titanium PowerBook was definitely a cool computer, but when most people thought of Apple, it was probably the bulbous, colorful iMac G3 that popped into people’s heads. The company was starting to build a reputation for truly desirable products, but it was not yet consolidated.
That all changed on October 23, 2001, when Steve Jobs pulled the first iPod out of his pocket. For a generation of music fans, this became the quintessential cool item that was more than just a fad. It’s no exaggeration to say that he reinvented the music industry while paving the way for Apple to become the world’s biggest company. It was the ultimate gateway drug to bring people who had never bought an Apple product before to see what it was all about.
At this point, the somewhat skeptical reception of the iPod is part of the tradition of the tech industry – particularly Slashdot’s dismissal of the product as “lame” compared to a Nomad MP3 player. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever used a Nomad. That’s what I thought.) And it’s not like the product is an instant hit – the first iPod cost $ 400 and only worked with the Mac. , two factors that limited its appeal.
These limitations helped him gain some serious cachet, however. Seeing an iPod in the wild was a rarity, and my Mac-owner friends who were the first to adopt it faced my incessant questions and demands to hold it and spin its distinctive wheel. It didn’t help that my classmate (who had a PowerBook and a titanium iPod) and a graphic designer friend (with a PowerMac G4 and an iPod) kept talking about how awesome their hardware was. I was ready to be one of those switches Apple loved to talk about in the early 2000s.
The iPod may have started as a Mac-only product, but less than a year later, Apple opened it up to the other 98 percent of computer users by introducing a Windows-compatible model in the summer of 2002. Less than a year after that, Apple completely redesigned the iPod and released a new version of iTunes for Windows. At the same time, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, which makes it much easier to get legal music on an iPod. With this, the iPod has fully entered the mainstream.
There is no good way to quantify the number of people who bought an iPod for Windows and ultimately switched to a Mac. But Mac sales grew from around 3 million in 2003 to over 7 million in 2007. Apple’s switch to more powerful Intel processors in 2005 likely helped adoption, but the “halo effect” The iPod was often cited in the mid-2000s as a driving force. the growing popularity of the Mac.
The growth in Mac sales and the most popular consumer electronics device of the decade really paved the way for the iPhone’s monumental success. Of course, the iPhone ended up killing the iPod, but as Steve Jobs said, he’d rather cannibalize Apple’s sales with another Apple product than let another company do it. This is how he justified the existence of the iPod touch, which was essentially an iPhone without a phone.
I might over-sell the evolution from iPod to Mac to iPhone, because I experienced it. After getting a second-gen iPod in 2002 (embarrassing admission time: I also bought four other full-size iPods between that date and 2009), I got my first Mac in 2003 and the first iPhone at the end. from 2007. I remember getting more excited about my first iPhone than my first iPod, mainly because it was light years better than the Moto RAZR I was using at the time. But my first iPod was also a huge step up from the MP3 players I owned before. And in my early twenties, there was nothing more important to me than music.
It might not make me unique, but it’s still true. Before the iPod was everywhere, someone else who had an iPod was someone you could trust. They took music as seriously as you do; they knew how liberating it was to have your 100 favorite albums with you, on demand, whenever you needed them. In a world where Apple Music offers access to 90 million songs wherever you are for $ 10 a month, that might seem odd. But 20 years ago it was a revelation.
I still have the last iPod I ever bought, a 2008 iPod classic with 120GB of storage – about the same space I have in my iPhone 12 Pro. It’s always packed with music, some 11,000+ songs, most of which come from albums that I have carefully selected over time. Most of them are still in my Apple Music library, which has now more than doubled that size, to over 25,000 songs.
I’m still a firm believer in the art of making a great album, but I’ve also collected thousands of singles, or a handful of artist songs that catch my ear on one of the many curated playlists. The music industry has changed, and so have I. Whether this is a good thing or not is up for debate for another time, but there is no doubt that the music and tech industries have completely changed because of the iPod – something that was introduced ago. at 20 years. hardly mentioned.