On Sunday, Apple’s original iPod celebrated the 15th anniversary of its launch on October 23, 2001. The reveal of the iPod by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2001 was preceded by the usual breadcrumb trail of mystery, rumors, and leaks, with most reports pointing to a new “breakthrough digital device” coming from the company later in the month. Apple even hinted itself that “it’s not a Mac.”
Some speculation went against rumors that the device would be an MP3 player, even suggesting it could be “something more sophisticated such as a component for a home digital stereo system.” Still, most reports pointed toward the impending launch of the “iPod,” a device that would allow customers to ditch their cumbersome CD players and listen to thousands of songs from one device in their pocket.
In the official keynote address, Jobs referred to the Mac as the focal point of the Apple customer’s digital lifestyle, with the new iPod device as the ultra-portable, music-enabled addition to that lifestyle. The iPod launched for $399 with a 5GB hard drive that could hold up to 1,000 songs, a 10-hour battery life, a black and white LCD screen, came equipped with FireWire to enable a connection between it and iTunes on a Mac, and was the size of a deck of cards (2.4″ wide, 4″ tall, 3/4″ thick).
A few individuals who were part of the iPod’s launch looked back at the device over the weekend, although Apple itself remained silent on the topic. In the first official promotional video for the iPod, a collection of Apple executives and musicians — including Phil Schiller, Jony Ive, and Moby — are seen discussing the creation and impact of the device. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Moby remembers “how magical it was,” and remarks on how much has changed with the iPod, and its successor in the iPhone, in 15 years.
“It’s a little disconcerting when I look back at the past, but the past still sounds like the future,” Moby says. “I remember when 2002 seemed like an unimaginably far time — like, really far away. Now it’s like a distant past.”
Technology is, obviously, the perfect physical encapsulation of this: “Remember those multicolored clamshell laptops that Apple had?” he says. “Now they seem old and clunky, like a weird pair of sneakers. But at the time, they just represented the future. The same thing with the iPod, at the time it was so futuristic, and now it just seems like an adorable relic.”
The first alternative iPod lineup, dubbed the iPod mini, debuted in 2004, followed by the iPod nano and iPod shuffle in 2005. The iPod touch was eventually introduced as a non-cellular counterpart to the company’s iPhone, and became one of the longest-lasting iPod lines to date (six generations), tied with the classic line, but behind the iPod nano (seven generations).
In 2016, Apple still manufactures and sells the iPod touch, iPod nano, and iPod shuffle, but the three devices have long been removed from the main toolbar navigation on its website, and are now located under “Music.” The three current iPods on sale bear little resemblance to the original device’s famous click wheel interface, which was mechanical in the first generation and touch-sensitive in subsequent lines. The last iPod with a click wheel, the iPod Classic, was discontinued by Apple in 2014 and marked the sixth generation of the device.
The iPod began Apple’s quest to make music a mainstay in its customers’ lives by finding a seamless and effortless way for songs to be carried around, in opposition to the size of CD players and the general confusion at the time over how other MP3 players worked. Today, music is a bigger part of Apple than ever, with Apple Music slowly growing in subscribers and the iPhone now essentially the modern version of the original 5GB iPod from fifteen years ago.
This week at a Mac-focused event, it’s also expected that the company will debut the wireless “AirPods.” The Bluetooth device will be the newest implementation of its ubiquitous headphone line, which began alongside the iPod in 2001.
Related Roundups: iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod touch
Buyer’s Guide: iPod Shuffle (Don’t Buy), iPod Nano (Don’t Buy), iPod Touch (Don’t Buy)
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If you’re a gadget fan of a certain age (cough), you’re about to feel ancient: Apple’s iPod just turned 15 years old. Steve Jobs unveiled the first version of the media player at an event on Apple’s campus on October 23rd, 2001. To say that it had a wild ride after that would be an understatement. Many credit the iPod as the device that took Apple from niche PC maker to one of the largest companies on the planet, only to fade away as smartphones took over. But how did it get to where it is now? And is there any room left for the iPod 15 years later? Let’s take a quick look back at how the iPod has evolved through the years.
We like to think of the iPod’s 2001 introduction as a watershed moment these days, but at the time it left many scratching their heads. This was a risky side project for a company that had been on the brink just a few years earlier, and the number of caveats seemed to be a mile long. Mac-only, a $399 price and ‘just’ 5GB of storage? Many didn’t expect it to sell well… and for the first couple of years, it didn’t. While the iPod found an audience among the faithful, those steep initial requirements ruled out both Windows users (even the 2002 model’s Windows support was a kludge) and many casual Mac listeners. Competitors like Creative and Rio had little to fear at first. Still, it was a glimpse at a future where you could quickly and easily sync your whole music collection, rather than painstakingly copying songs over an abysmally slow connection.
But then something happened. In 2003, Apple not only released an iPod built with Windows users in mind, but launched both iTunes for Windows and the iTunes Music Store. It was as if a puzzle had been solved. Suddenly, most computer users could buy whatever songs they liked, sync them with an iPod, and start listening within a few minutes — no CD ripping or dodgy peer-to-peer sites required. It’s easy to complain about how unwieldy iTunes can be today, but it was a minor revelation at a time when most MP3 players had truly clunky sync processes and few (if any) ways to integrate with digital music services.
And for the next few years, it seemed as if Apple could do no wrong. iPod sales exploded, helped in no small part by falling prices and more accessible models. The iPod mini, shuffle and nano transformed the device from a near-luxury item into something virtually anyone could own. Apple grabbed such a dominant foothold in the market that no competitors posed more than a temporary threat. Even Microsoft’s Zune, with its iPod-like software integration and gobs of marketing money, couldn’t loosen Apple’s grip. The iPod’s white earbuds (and the matching silhouette ads) became iconic. With the help of iTunes, it ushered in an era where digital music was an everyday fact of life instead of a novelty. Podcasts owe both their success and very name to Apple’s pocket player — you wouldn’t be listening to Serial otherwise.
All technology has a finite lifespan, though, and Apple took the relatively radical step of hastening the iPod’s demise itself. When Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, he wasn’t shy about treating it as a do-it-all device that could help you avoid buying an iPod. Why get something separate when all your music can live on the phone you’re already carrying? The media player soldiered on for a while, in part thanks to the iPod touch (which satisfied the urge if you couldn’t buy an iPhone), but its days were clearly numbered. It’s telling that Apple unveiled the first iPod classic mere months after the iPhone arrived, indicating that the days of music-first hardware were coming to an end.
You may well know what happened next. Modern smartphones, including the iPhone, rendered dedicated players almost obsolete within just a few years. Apple increasingly shifted the iPod toward niche uses like fitness (the current iPod nano and shuffle are practically designed for runners) and away from the mainstream. Sales fell from nearly 55 million iPods per year in 2008 to a number so low that Apple no longer breaks them out in its fiscal results. To compound matters, streaming music has practically eliminated the need for a tiny jukebox. You don’t need capacious storage when you can listen to seemingly everything on services like Spotify or Apple Music. The death of the iPod classic in 2014 was less of a tragedy and more a sign of progress, when you think about it.
As such, the iPod at 15 is really in its twilight years. There’s just not much room for it. Unless you need a mountain of offline music without paying a premium, you’re usually better off using your phone. It can access a wide array of services, and you don’t have to sync it with a computer. Even the iPod nano and shuffle are facing pressure from smartwatches, which can hold or stream enough music to last your whole run.
This isn’t to say that the iPod is a footnote in history, however. In hindsight, it was a stepping stone — a way of leaving CD players and record stores behind in favor of a world where any song you want is just a heartbeat away, wherever you are. You can also see it as ushering in the mobile revolution, since the iPod’s success helped drum up interest in the iPhone and other smartphones that weren’t just about checking email or making calls. As sad as it is to see the iPod treated like an afterthought today, there’s no question that its legacy will last well beyond the day the last units leave store shelves.
Image credits: Reuters/Mike Blake; AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Apple isn’t about to open a museum any time soon, but that isn’t stopping fans from making one of their own. Prague’s newly opened Apple Museum showcases what’s billed as the “biggest” private collection of Apple gear, ranging from some of the earliest systems to models you can find in stores today. The collection includes some relatively hard-to-find items, too, including the Lisa, the Twentieth Anniversary Mac and a Beatles Collector’s Box (complete with iPod and rip-it-yourself CD library). The tributes to the company are over the top at times — expect to see a lot of Steve Jobs quotes — but it might be worth the trip if you’re in town and have a penchant for Apple gear.
[Image credit: Apple Museum, Imgur]
It’s that time again – Apple just dropped its Q3 2015 earnings and despite missing Wall Street’s always-lofty expectations, it’s been a solid three months of growth thanks to the two usual suspects. Say it with us now, folks: It’s all thanks to the iPhone and China. (If you’re the sort who cares, Apple just missed most Wall Street estimates by posting earnings of $1.85 per share.)
Just under 27 percent of the 49.6 billion dollars in revenue Apple generated in the past three months was thanks to Greater China, which is more than double the amount of the pie the country accounted for this time last year. (The addition of a ritzy, massive new Apple store in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong should help wealthy mainlanders get their fix that much easier, too). Meanwhile, iPhones were still far and away the most sought after gadgets in Apple’s portfolio with 47.5 million moved in a single quarter – not quite as much as last quarter’s blowout but a big lift over the year before. To hear CEO Tim Cook tell it in the early stages of the customary earnings call, the iPhone grew at “almost three times the rate of growth of the smartphone market overall, and we gained share in all of our geographic segments.”
Meanwhile, iPad sales continued to dip for another quarter, but the Mac line is doing more than just hanging steady; it’s actually growing a little bit. Apple moved 4.7 million Macs this time, just a hair better than it did last quarter and last year’s quarter.
Oh, and then there’s the elephant in the room. There’s no such luck for anyone hoping to see Apple Watch sales numbers this quarter – Apple lumped revenues in with its “Other Products” category where the Apple TVs once-great iPods now live. Still, there’s perhaps just a little insight to be gleaned here since the category as a whole has only grown about a billion dollars since this time last quarter. It’s possible (if unlikely) that the Apple Watch drove all that growth despite the iPod’s near-irrelevance, but we’d figure some nice post-price cut Apple TV sales helped a lot too. Still, CFO Luca Maestri told the New York Times that the Watch’s first nine weeks on the market “exceeded those of the iPhone and iPad in their first nine weeks of availability.”
Update: Maestri just gave us a little more info on the Apple Watch situation, saying it was responsible for “over 100 percent” of the “Other Product” category’s growth in the quarter and offset any losses from iPod and accessory sales. That means the Watch was responsible for around a billion dollars in sales on its own, though there’s still no way to tell exactly how many units that shakes out to.
Filed under: Mobile
The iPod may not be Apple’s golden goose anymore, hell, it’s not even an option on the company’s site anymore, but that doesn’t mean that the firm is ignoring it. The company is giving the iPods a seasonal refresh with the junior devices getting some new colors and the iPod Touch getting more of the features we’re used to seeing on the iPhone. Whereas the existing Touch came with just a 5-megapixel camera, the new version gets an 8-megapixel shooter with burst and slo-mo — just as you’d find on the iPad Air 2. Internals-wise, the new iPod comes with the 64-bit A8 CPU that you find in the iPhone 6, paired with the M8 motion co-processor that’ll please the fitness enthusiast in your life.
If you were looking to grab the new iPod Touch, then the 16GB edition will set you back $199. In addition, you can grab a 32GB option for $249, a 64GB variant priced at $299 and, for the first time, a 128GB model that’ll sell for $399. At the same time, Apple also added the same space gray, silver and gold color options to the iPod nano and iPod shuffle ranges, should you prefer something smaller to take with you on your morning jog.
One of the hardest things about switching to an Android phone from an iPhone is that you’ve already invested so much into the apps and accessories, and switching to Android means having to start over. The Coolstream Duo alleviates a little of that pain, by allowing you to connect to iOS centric devices via Bluetooth.
Coolstream Duo overview
The device itself features a 30 pin iPod/iPhone connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an internal battery, and an on/off power switch. The internal battery and 3.5mm jack are nice features because they allow you to remove the Coolstream Duo from it’s appointed dock and take it on the go for wireless Bluetooth audio streaming in your car or to your favorite pair of wired headphones or even your computer speakers at work. Unfortunately, the one thing they don’t allow for is to use the device for hands-free calling. This is strictly designed to stream audio.
Coolstream Duo setup
The device is super easy to get up and running. First and foremost, you need an iPod/iPhone dock. I had to fish mine out of a box in the garage. I hadn’t used it in a couple of years because I have to mount it under a cabinet and I’m pretty sure my landlord doesn’t want me drilling holes in his cabinets. Once you have your dock ready, plug the device into the 30 pin connector and leave it on the dock for at least 3 hours to ensure that the battery gets a proper charge. When the device is fully charged, you can expect 5 continuous hours of battery life. Once the device is plugged in, search for Bluetooth devices from your phone and select the Coolstream Duo. The device will pair automatically without any need to enter a pin number. Now you’re ready to stream your music. Just open up your favorite music app and enjoy.
Coolstream Duo use
The one downside to the Coolstream Duo is that you are unable to control the music through the dock. You’ll have to control the music from your phone. In my case, that’s ok. At home, I always have my phone handy and I have a very short commute to work. I rarely change the song that I’m listening to in the car. You may, however, take issue with it. The best part about the Coolstream Duo is that you can now use your Android device with your old iOS equipment.
What we liked
- Bluetooth on iPod docks
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Battery life
What could be better
- Ability to change a song through dock
- Needs a microphone for handsfree calling
- A micro USB auxiliary charging port would open this up to more buyers
Coolstream Duo overview
If you have an old iPod 30 pin dock or even a 30 pin charger, then the Coolstream Duo is a great option to bring life to your non-Bluetooth equipped iPod docks and headphones. If not, then it’s probably best to look at your other options. You can purchase the Coolstream Duo for $29.99 from their website or on Amazon, where it has a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on over 830 reviews.
Do you have a Coolstream Duo? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
MP3. It’s the format that revolutionized the way music’s been consumed since the late ’90s. When Karlheinz Brandenburg, a German acoustics engineer, discovered that an audio file could be compressed down to one-twelfth of its original size without distortion, he created the file-shrinking technology. Stephen Witt’s debut book, How Music Got Free, traces all digital music piracy back to the invention of that format, which inadvertently made it possible for people to download and share music illegally. The book details the science and struggle behind the widely used audio technology. And his investigation uncovers the politics and the manipulative men who kept MP3 files from seeing the light of computer screens for years.
When the MP3 format became accessible, after a long corporate battle, it eventually led to the rise of music piracy and simultaneous demise of CDs. But Witt reveals more than just the technology that systematically tore the music industry to pieces. He narrows the story down to two men at opposite ends of the same spectrum: Doug Morris, one of the most powerful record label CEOs in the industry, who made rap music top the charts and eventually led the fight against piracy; and Dell Glover, a factory worker at a Universal Music CD-manufacturing unit in North Carolina, who leaked about 2,000 albums, made Eminem change his album release date and became one of the biggest pirates in the largest underground scene, Rabid Neurosis (RNS).
When pirated music found its way online in the ’90s and early 2000s, almost all of it came through RNS, which relied on Glover’s access to the CDs weeks before release. Tech-savvy teens spent hours scouring the internet and loved having access to music before it hit the record stores, even if that meant jeopardizing the careers of the very artists they worshiped. At the time, it became virtually impossible to not download the MP3 files or know someone who did.
Witt’s book is filled with nostalgic moments for a generation that grew up on piracy. But it’s also informative for people who skipped that phase completely. He draws parallels between the inventions, the decisions and the theft that led to the downfall of the booming music industry — an industry that never quite regained its glory. I caught up with the author to get the lowdown on his expansive work on digital piracy and his views on music streaming.
When and why did you get interested in music piracy?
I showed up at [the University of Chicago] in 1997 with a 2GB hard drive and by the end of the year, I filled it with pirated MP3s. This was really the first time in history that you could do it. Even a couple of years earlier the technology wasn’t there. Over the next decade, I was a serial media pirate. I just hoarded tons of stuff. I was on all the underground pirate networks. It was such a thoughtless action to go and take something from the internet; I never really thought about who might have put it up there in the first place. As I got older, around 2010-2011, I wondered where all this stuff came from. When I started investigating it, I found all this fascinating stuff that turned into this book.
The original iPod from 2001
Your book underscores the technology that led to music piracy and the corporate drama behind it. It was fascinating and frustrating to know that half a dozen German engineers sat on a gold mine but couldn’t share it with the world for years because their invention was systematically and viciously suppressed. Why was the music industry snubbing MP3 even though it was clearly a superior format to the MP2, which was widely accepted?
The music industry was [made up of] technophobes. When this information [about the MP3] first became available, they rejected it multiple times. The pirates [started] providing leaked compressed music through the internet and filling a vacuum that the music industry would not. The music corporations could’ve done that. They ended up being forced to do it much later anyway. But for a long time, they had to be dragged screaming into the modern era. Now I think anyone who owns a music company is thinking 20 years ahead about distribution. They’ve learned their lesson. But at the time they were totally clueless.
There’s a moment when Ricky Adar, an entrepreneur, asks Brandenburg, “Do you realize what you’ve done? You’ve killed the music industry.” Did the invention of the MP3 really destroy the industry or did it, in fact, push it to change and adopt a new way?
It was a bit of both. Adar was trying to push a service similar to what we call Spotify today. This was in 1995. He faced enormous resistance from the industry and at the time it wasn’t even clear such a thing was technologically possible. When he saw the MP3, it was the first time he saw a device that actually shrunk music, but made it listenable. Previous devices did it, but they sounded pretty crappy. Why did he say it killed the industry? I think once the stuff got out, it wouldn’t be copy protectable, people would start trading it online, which is exactly what happened. The profits would disappear because you could get it for free. It pushed the industry into the future, but even today they’re only operating at about half the size that they were at the peak of compact discs in 2000. Still, it’s not clear if they’re ever gonna recover. They actually shrunk last year, even with Spotify.
The music industry eventually fought back against piracy. They went after Napster for copyright infringement. The RIAA also sued Diamond Multimedia, the company that created the first-ever commercially successful MP3 player. What was going on with these lawsuits?
“Apple almost acted like a money launderer for the spoils of Napster.”
The judges ruled Napster was illegal, so the industry won that one. The legality of Napster wasn’t obvious at first. Now it’s clear that it was in violation of the law, but at the time there was no basis for ruling that. Simultaneously, there was a lawsuit against [Diamond] — the earliest version of the MP3 player. But the judges ended up ruling that the MP3 player was just a hard drive and they could not limit its sales. So the music industry lost that suit. When it happened there were all these music files everywhere and then [the lawsuit] made all these portable players available. Essentially, the music industry won the wrong lawsuit.
Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify
Napster had the potential to shrink the massive profits that the music industry was making from CD sales, but for a time it wasn’t impacting the sales at all. People couldn’t go anywhere with their downloaded files. But when the MP3 player won the lawsuit (RIAA vs. Diamond), it made digital piracy portable and even led to the launch of the iPod, right?
For sure. Apple came kind of late to this. iTunes debuted in 2001. The iPod came in [later that year]. It didn’t make an impact right away, but eventually people wanted to take all these files and make them portable. The iPod made that possible. So for a time it became the best-selling gadget ever. Apple’s retail store had the highest sales per square foot of any retail business in history and a lot of it was from these $200-300 iPods. Eventually they moved to iPhone, but you can trace these developments in the global market all the way to the earliest days of piracy. It’s like I say in the book, Apple almost acted like a money launderer for the spoils of Napster.
At one point in the book you say: “Controversy was temporary. Royalties were forever.” I couldn’t help but wonder how you perceive the aggressive shift from downloading to streaming services like Spotify and Tidal?
The stuff in the book is really nostalgia now. That era is closing and we’ve moved on to a new form. Instead of owning files, we license them from a large corporation; we’re at their mercy. The trade-off is that artists get paid and we get access to everything ever written instantly. It’s a pretty nice deal, but it limits the freedom of the user. What’s going on right now is that there’s more than half a dozen companies attempting to crack the music-streaming space. All of them are losing money and artists are making very little from these sites. But if they can get hundreds of millions of users to subscribe, it can work. They just have to make people willing to pay $120 a year. Half of Spotify’s subscribers are under the age of 27 and these are people who grew up with piracy, including me.
I wonder if there’s an all-powerful Doug Morris-type of the streaming world?
Daniel Ek — the CEO of Spotify. He’s Swedish and he founded the company in 2008 during the height of Pirate Bay frenzy. His entire mission statement for the company was to get people to pay for music again. Surprisingly enough, I would say he’s been successful in doing that. Spotify is not a sustainable business right now. It’s losing about $200 million a year and it’s paying its artists a pittance. It’s possible in the future it could evolve into a commercially viable model. It’s not there yet. But for consumers it’s been great.
If they can get their goal of 40 million [paid] subscribers, which is the size of the music industry right now, they might save everyone.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
[Images: Viking Press (top image); 37prime/Flickr (First gen iPod); Taylor Hill/FilmMagic (Daniel Ek, Spotify)]
Monster’s lawsuit against Beats Electronics last January has come back to bite it now that Beats is an Apple subsidiary. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has killed Monster’s official licensing agreement deader than that reported Beats WiFi speaker. Monster has been producing licensed accessories (lightning cables, headphones and whatnot) since 2005. Plus, it’s reportedly paid more than $12 million in licensing fees since 2008 for the honor of selling “Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad” devices, some of which retailed in Apple stores.
Chief counsel for Monster, David Tognotti, told the Wall Street Journal that Apple terminated the companies’ agreement on May 5th citing it no longer being “mutually beneficial” due to the lawsuit. The lawsuit itself stemmed from Monster CEO Noel Lee accusing Beats’ co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre of fraud regarding the potential proceeds of its sale to Apple. The lawsuit is ongoing. Monster will continue to sell of its remaining stock of products until September. “It shows a side of Apple that consumers don’t see very often,” Tognotti told the WSJ. “Apple can be a bully.”
[Image Credit: Getty Images]
Filed under: Apple
Source: Wall Street Journal
It was the best question pitched to Apple CEO at WSJD’s Live conference: Why was the iPod discontinued? Apparently it’s a very simple reason: “We couldn’t get the parts any more,” explained Tim Cook. “They don’t make them any more.” While the iPod Classic isn’t exactly a creaky transistor radio just yet, that’s how it went down. “We would have to make a whole new product…. the engineering work to do that would be massive.” The difficult truth that some of you probably don’t want to hear: “The number of people who wanted it is very small.” So pour one out for the iPod Classic — and hit up eBay if you’re still craving a clickwheel.
Nicole Lee contributed to this story.
Apple may have only introduced 64-bit computing to iPhones and iPads a little over a year ago, but it’s already preparing for the day when legacy 32-bit code is gone for good. The Cupertino crew is now telling developers that their iOS apps must include 64-bit support from February 1st onward. While the company won’t kick out existing titles, both new apps and updated releases will have to make the switch. Theoretically, this is easy — developers just have to build apps using the most recent tools and standard settings.
The switch could have a meaningful impact on the apps you use. At the least, it should reduce the need for iOS to juggle both 32- and 64-bit code. That’s good for performance, whether or not there are meaningful upgrades to the apps themselves. The move may also spur more developers to fine-tune their apps for the A7 and A8 chips in recent iOS gear — even if they don’t need to use higher-precision 64-bit math, that could still lead to faster games, media players and other demanding titles. It’ll likely take much longer for Apple to drop 32-bit support altogether, but the ball is clearly rolling on that transition.
Source: Apple Developer