The iPod remains a pervasive example of a viral epidemic adoption. When did it hit the tipping point? I’ve still got my 1G pod although the battery gave up the ghost a long time ago. It certainly wasn’t in 2001. The unit was a luxury item and rather expensive. I think I paid close to $800 for mine in that first month after introduction. A couple iPod’s later, the fascination still remains, but my attitude has moved more towards the utilitarian value. I picked up a Shuffle for use as a USB key with extras. It continues to perform exemplary. As nice as the stainless steel back is from the 1G, the Shuffle makes much more sense and doesn’t mar when treated roughly. It’s there when you need it and holds a charge for ages. My Nano, bought after Apple intro’d the 2G Nano for a song, is the dock that holds my little Nike jogging device. Now, that is a cool use. So I have paid Apple my share to support the trend.
This article from wired is a brief narrative outlining the process at Apple that led to its release in 2001. I recall being aware as many were that the software on the pod was licensed from PortalPlayer, however, this shares some of the other ways in which Apple was able to get a product to market quickly. It wasn’t the first MP3 player, but it certainly was the best. My little 64Mb Sony pencil player (I can’t remember the product name) had the utilitarian value of the Shuffle in 2000. As the author notes, Apple identified as need, a market full of products that demonstrated limited innovation – and offered Apple an opportunity to reach a whole new sector. They did this very well. Licensing where necessary, subjecting the product to an effective refinement strategy and combining it crucially with a desktop software. Has anyone tried the crap Sony stuff. DRM is the debate, but Sony tends to rub your face in it, where Apple has hidden most of it and framed the reminder of its presence in tongue-in-cheek cheekiness – ‘Remember, Don’t Steal Music’.