TechKNOW Tomorrow – The Rise and Fall of Apple’s iPod

Image by Christine Sandu via Unsplash.

As technology continues to progress rapidly, it’s easy to forget the past technology that helped make our future possible. For example, we take music for granted today thanks to platforms like Spotify and YouTube that allow us to stream practically any music from smart speakers and our phones, but music wasn’t always so readily available.

The internet changed everything in the ’90s. Music could be downloaded as a file instead of listened to from a stereo system. More importantly, music could be transferred from a computer to an MP3 player, replacing traditional CD players and allowing a truly portable experience.

That said, it wasn’t until 2001 that the next evolution in “music-on-the-go” appeared – Apple’s iPod.

The Rise

While MP3 players existed during the late ’90s, internet speeds were far too slow at the time to support multiple music downloads. To make things even worse, there was a lack of software to transfer songs onto an MP3 player in the first place. By 2001, both of these problems had finally been solved.

Image by Ben Szymanski via Unsplash.

The first iPod was light and compact, yet had the ability to store up to 2000 songs! The scroll wheel was a unique feature that allowed us to quickly and easily navigate an entire library of music. With iTunes, a piece of media management software released by Apple, we could organize music into playlists and transfer songs onto an iPod with little hassle.

Apple’s iPod would later dominate the market thanks to a sleek and thin design, the ability to store an entire music collection, and the simplicity of its device. Of course, its high price and computer limitation (iTunes was originally only available for Mac users) prevented many people from immediately adopting it, but it was the most straightforward and powerful MP3 player of its time.

Fast-forward to 2003 as “Apple announced the iTunes Music Store, an online retail hub where customers could browse and purchase music for 99 cents per song“. Instead of downloading songs illegally and risking malware, iTunes offered an affordable way to own music that could easily be transferred to an iPod.

The world was slowly becoming more and more digital as computers were found in practically every household. The iPod continued to lead the market in portable music players for several years and tens of millions of sales. But something in 2007 changed everything.

The Fall

In 2007, Apple released the very first iPhone, which was essentially three devices in one: an iPod, a high tech phone, and a portable internet communicator. “The rise of the iPhone and the fall of the iPod have a direct relationship“. Starting in 2008, iPod sales began to decline sharply as the iPhone increased in popularity.

Image by Youssef Sarhan via Unsplash.

In 2009, Apple’s FCO stated, “We expect our traditional MP3 players to decline over time as we cannibalize ourselves with the iPod Touch and the iPhone“. By 2011, iPhone sales were higher than those of iPod sales, a trend that would continue throughout the 2010s.

That said, 2017 was the final nail in the iPod’s coffin. Due to earning less than 2% of Apple’s gross revenue, the company decided to discontinue the iPod Nano and Shuffle, the last of Apple’s devices that lacked internet connectivity. Today, a single model of the iPod Touch is still sold by Apple, though a new release hasn’t been announced or hinted at in three years.

The reason the iPod fell was because Apple created its own competition. As we progress through the 2020s, the age of the single-purpose gadget is clearly over. Our smartphones can do practically anything a laptop can do, connect to the internet anywhere, and still make calls and send text messages as a phone should. It’s just a matter of time before the smartphone is replaced with something even more intuitive, flexible, and futuristic.

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Unfortunately, our services will no longer be available after March 31, 2022. However, our class presentations, handouts, and activities will all remain available on the Community Sector Council website for you to continue practicing your digital literacy skills. You can also check out some of these resources to keep on top of technology and to find answers to specific questions you may have.

From all of us here at techKNOWtutors, thank you for your support of our program and take care! Stay in the techKNOW!

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