The original iPod music player debuted on October 23, 2001, about eight and a half months after iTunes for OS X was released. The inaugural model was the size of a standard deck of cards, measuring 2.4 inches wide, four inches tall and 0.78 inches thick.
The music player had a tiny hard drive with only five gigabytes of storage, a monochromatic LCD screen, a mechanical click wheel interface for going through your music and a price tag of $399.
It took some time, but the iPod and the iTunes Music Store eventually went on to change the entire music industry and rebrand Apple as a music company. And now, after thirteen years, 400 million units sold and $65 billion in cumulative revenue, the iPod has quietly disappeared from Apple’s public reports.
For clarity, as Juli Clover pointed out to me on Twitter, company executives did say in October 2014 they’d be putting the iPod in the ‘Other Products’ section going forward.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact Apple is no longer reporting iPod unit sales, and that’s saying a lot. Here’s the product revenue breakdown from Apple’s holiday quarter earnings report.
The iPod is nowhere to be seen.
Three months earlier, quarterly earnings included the iPod section.
Fun fact: Apple sold more Macs than iPods, despite the fact that an average selling price of Macs is far higher than that of iPods.
Back in the old days, so powerful was the so-called iPod hallo effect that Apple used to have the iPod branding for the media player app included with the iPhone and iPad, until iOS 5.
Check out the very first iPod television commercial that Steve Jobs himself unveiled during the 2001 Special Apple Event held on Apple’s Town Hall campus. Though not as cool as the “silhouette” campaign, it did help make the device famous by focusing on ease of use.
Those were fun times, eh?
As soon as the iPhone was introduced in January 2007, things quickly went downhill for the standalone music player. During the middle of 2010, iPhone sales overtook those of the iPod.
Still, it outlived Sony’s Walkman.
And here’s Steve Jobs unveiling the original iPod which with the promise of putting “a thousand songs in your pocket”. It spearheaded a new era in consumer electronics, but you’d be hard pressed to tell that at the time judging by journalists’ mild reaction.
The iPod is still listed at the top navigation bar on Apple.com and the company continues selling various models, ranging from the $49 iPod shuffle, to the $199 iPod nano, to the $199-$299 iPod touch, which is basically an older-generation iPhone without the phone part (cellular radios).
But even the iPod touch, which Apple loves to position as a handheld gaming device, has seen little action and is marred by outdated hardware, like the crappy front-facing camera and the A5 chip, which debuted in the iPad 2 back in March 2011.
At any rate, Apple must be weighing the pros and cons of continuing iPod development. With iPod sales falling dramatically over the past few years, I’m not convinced at all that Apple can justify for much longer pouring resources into developing a standalone music player.
Sebastien, on the other hand, thinks that rumors of the iPod’s demise are greatly exaggerated as there may still be life left in the category. Indeed, the thin and portable iPod nano and shuffle continue to be popular with the active types who love to wear them when jogging, working out in the gym and so forth.
But the market for that is shrinking so fast thanks as the likes of Nike, Misfit, RunKeeper and others who make wearable fitness trackers take over.
And with the Apple Watch coming into full view soon and the prevalence and ubiquitousness of smartphones, the vast majority of normals, I suspect, won’t, or already don’t, see the need for a standalone music player in their lives.
What do you guys think?
Is the iPod next on the chopping block?