Mat Honan on the birth (and death) of the iPod:

But that iPod event—the Apple “music” event—changed everything else that would come after, for Apple and the rest of us, too. Because like Steve Jobs said that day, with his dad jeans on, “you can fit your whole music library in your pocket. Never before possible.”

Holy. Shit.

The iPod (the click wheel one) was the first Apple product I ever owned. Before that, I was a PC guy all the way. One may even have called me a Microsoft fanboy — true story.

I bought the iPod solely because I was about to drive by myself across the country to move to California. And I needed a way to play back every single song I um, borrowed via Napster in college. That iPod was a gateway drug for me. RIP.

Joshua Hunt:

Commissaries often carry other, bargain-brand radios, but according to former inmates and employees of the Bureau of Prisons and the Keefe Group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, America’s federal prisoners are most likely to own a Sony. Melissa Dolan, a Sony spokesperson, confirmed in an e-mail that selling portable radios in American prisons has long been a “stable business” that represents “sizable” sales for the company. Of the models available, the SRF-39FP remains an undisputed classic, still found on commissary lists an impressive fifteen years after its initial release, making it nearly as common behind prison walls as Apple’s iPod once was outside of them, despite competition from newer devices like digital radios and MP3 players.

Fascinating. Though I’m not sure this is a metric Sony would ever want to tout.

Update: David Ulevitch provides the goods. My response.

Jay Haynes takes me to task on a point I made recently:

MG Siegler noted that Apple “wants to be the ones to disrupt themselves… But never with stakes this high…”. But I would argue the stakes were incredibly high when Apple decided to disrupt the Mac and the iPod (both about 100% of their revenue) at the same time. And history is a good indication that Apple is probably thinking about disrupting the iPhone, even now. A truly disruptive product to the iPhone might not emerge for years, but I can’t think of another company that would prepare for and execute a self-disruption strategy like Apple. It is in their culture to do it, as long as the new product is insanely great. As a result, Apple deserves a higher future growth rate than the market is currently giving it.

Sure, I guess what I meant was that the stakes have never been this high in terms of the revenue. Of course Apple wants to be the one to disrupt the iPhone and they’re thinking about it — I’m just not convinced it’s possible to replace such a high level or revenue. And that’s not a knock on Apple, I’m not sure anyone can. The iPhone is just that good of a business.

Another point Haynes makes that I absolutely agree with:

Microsoft made the mistake of targeting the “iPod market” with the Zune. But JTBD theory shows us that there is no such thing as an iPod market, just as there isn’t a cassette market, an LP market, or a CD market. Companies get disrupted because they define the market based on their product, not on the customers job-to-be-done, e.g. the markets for listening to music and discovering new music.

That’s exactly the right way to think about it. It’s the end, not the means.

Steven Sinofsky on the internet figuring out he was using an iPhone:

Moving beyond the gotcha blogs, there’s an actual reason for using technology products and services other than the ones you make (or happen to be made by the company where you work/ed). I think everyone knows that, even a thousand tweets later. The approach in many industries to downplay or even become hostile to the competition are well-documented and studied, and generally conclude that experiencing the competition is a good thing.

Learning from the competition is not just required of all product development folks, but can also be somewhat of a skill worth honing. Let’s look at the ins and outs of using a competitive product.

Obviously you should use a competitive product. You should know what you’re up against when a consumer (or business) ultimately faces a buying decision. They will weigh a wide array of factors and you should be aware of those not only for the purposes of sales and marketing but when you are designing your products.

Sinofsky’s former boss, Steve Ballmer, to Fortune in 2006:

Do you have an iPod?

No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children—in many dimensions they’re as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I’ve got my kids brainwashed: You don’t use Google, and you don’t use an iPod.

"I think everyone knows that…"


Gotcha, indeed.

I still find it sort of odd that Apple would upgrade the iPod line alongside the iPhone when we already know (or presume to know) that they’re doing another event in October for the iPad mini. The iPhone is by far Apple’s biggest business and clearly warrants its own event. And the iPad mini would be a perfect “one more thing” at an iPod/iTunes event, no?

But I wouldn’t doubt Mark Gurman’s sources here — who, if I had to guess, are well-connected folks at Apple retail with early access to coming-soon inventory. So, new iPods it is!

I’m most interested in the supposedly redesigned nano, and what they may mean for the now bustling iPod watch market. I still expect Apple to move into this market itself one day.

Also interesting is what Gurman is hearing about the iPod touch. Apparently, there may be a new fifth generation model at the high end. Without knowing for sure, Gurman throws out some guesses as to what Apple could do here. Colors? But he misses the obvious one: the larger screen. If the iPhone is getting one, doesn’t it make sense to release at least one iPod touch with the screen as well?

Now I just want to know what Apple plans to do at this October event. Maybe new iMacs? Maybe a new Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro as well? Or maybe they’re just well-aware that demand for a smaller, cheaper iPad will be massive. Maybe it will be a full iPad line refresh (complete with the new dock connectors) just in time for the holidays.

Apple Stores, start your cash registers.

(And no, I don’t think the Apple Television is coming this year.)

Update: Sure enough, Rene Ritchie has the goods that the higher price point iPod touches will indeed be getting the 4-inch screen as well.

John Gruber argues against Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion (itself derived from Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography) that Jobs was more of a “tweaker” than a true inventor. 

I’d still argue that Gladwell’s thoughts on this are interesting and worth thinking about. But Gruber is right to note that the issue is anything but black and white. 

If you think about it, has anyone in the past 50 years been a true inventor by Gladwell’s stringent definition? I know the answer is “yes”, but it’s hard to think of people.

One name that comes to mind is Dean Kamen with the Segway. But you could argue that was just a “tweaking” of the scooter, I suppose. Plus, despite the initial hype, that device has changed the world far less than a dozen other things Jobs did. 

What about the portable digital music player itself, which Gruber agrees is probably the closest thing to a “tweak” product that Jobs did?

If Wikipedia is to be believed, a British scientist named Kane Kramer invented it in 1979 with a device called the IXI.(Incidentally, Apple ended up hiring Kramer as a consultant and used him in an iPod patent legal case decades later.) But couldn’t you argue that such a product is really just a “tweak” of existing portable music players? 

The first actual portable MP3 player was made by a company called Audio Highway in 1996. But couldn’t you just argue that it was just a “tweak” of the portable CD player, which itself was just a tweak of the cassette-based Walkman? They’re all the same basic idea, it’s the format for the music that changed. 

And aren’t all of those just “tweaks” of any home audio playback equipment? Most work the same way, it’s just the portability that’s different. 

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Even as sales continue to slip now (though market share remains around 70%), it has had one hell of a run. Macworld has the story of its birth on October 23, 2001.

Benj Edwards:

Apple chose to unveil its portable digital music player in a low-key special event held on Apple’s campus in Cupertino. The press and Apple fans alike met the iPod with severe skepticism. Pundits openly wondered what business Apple had selling consumer music gadgets. Many proclaimed doom.

Skepticism. Contempt. Doom. Sounds familiar. Sounds like the same reaction that just about every game-changing product initially receives. 

The iPod was going to be a huge failure. Except that it was the opposite. It was actually the catalyst that kick-started Apple’s run towards becoming the most important tech company in the world. An MP3 player no bigger than a deck of cards.