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History of the iPod

Today, one of the most popular devices to listen to music is the ubiquitous iPod. Apple’s iPod not only revolutionized the way many listen to their music, but also how they buy their music and other types of media. While there are plenty of other personal music players, none has had such an impact on culture, the music business and technology. Here is the history of the iPod.

Tony Fadell and his Digital Music Player

In the late 1990′s and early part of the century, digital music players were slowly being created. The industry was new and the technology wasn’t exactly perfected. For instance, while millions of people each year were now discovering the joy of mp3′s on their computers, many realized that carrying around a hard drive of music wasn’t exactly technically feasible. The first mp3 players that were created by company’s such as Rio and Creative were just starting to realize the true potential of a personal digital music player, however storage was an issue. The first mp3 players had storage space of 32 MB and 64 MB, only enoughsome times to play a handful of songs. In addition, the user interface made the device more like a Sony Walkman and not a next generation digital music player. However, one man did see the true potential of personal digital music players and his name was Tony Fadell.

Tony Fadell in 2000 realized that the personal digital music player had incredible potential just waiting to be tapped. While pretty much all the existing mp3 players of the time relied on costly compact flash style storage, Tony Fadell realized that new quarter-sized hard drives which offered 5 GB of storage space could be utilized to offer the consumer an entire library’s worth of music.

In addition, with the advent of Napster and its legal woes affecting the entire music industry, Tony Fadell envisioned that his new player could easily link on the internet with a media service where consumers can easily purchase new music that was legally downloaded directly to the player. With this idea in hand he started to meet with electronics and media companies in 2000 to sell it. His first stop was at RealNetworks. At the time, RealNetworks was one of the leaders of online media. They had millions of visitors and a wide range of media products being sold on their site- one of their more notable products was their premium radio and television channels. Unfortunately, at the time, RealNetworks balked at the idea finding it difficult to justify the creation of a separate personal music device when the media they were selling was successful as it is. Tony Fadell also pitched his new idea to other company including Phillips, but ultimately was turned down.

Tony Fadell Approaches Apple

In his quest to get his idea realized, Tony Fadell went to Apple. At the time, Apple was focused on their iMac line of computers. While they did make consumer electronics in the past (remember Newton), success was not guaranteed. However, Apple was very excited about Tony Fadell’s idea regarding a personal digital music player, especially since only a few months ago, Apple invested and bought a company called Soundjam MP which could deliver digital tunes directly to a computer or music player.

Apple gave Tony Fadell the green light to start on his project in early 2001. Apple also gave him a development team of about 30 people and a deadline of one year to create the player.

It should be noted that while Apple gave Tony Fadell a green light on the project, he still didn’t have confidence in Apple that they would want to create and develop a player from scratch, so instead he decided to look around for companies that already developed a player and work off their creation. He found a company called PortalPlayer. This company had already developed a player, but it was not yet released to the market. In fact, PortalPlayer had developed over the years several players, but all of them lacked Fadell’s vision- they had poor features and the battery life was horrendous, lasting at most 3 hours.

Steve Jobs and the Development of the iPod

It should be noted that Steve Jobs did take an interest to the iPod from the very beginning and he was present at many of the meetings throughout the year during development. He also tested the product and would express his likes and dislikes about the interface, etc.

In about 8 month’s time, Fadell and PortalPlayer put together the workinghardware of the new iPod. On the other end, Apple developed the interface and the scroll wheel that would become infamous. The product was ready to be launched in October of 2001.

The First Generation iPod

The original iPod was release for sale on October 23, 2001. The First generation iPod included a 5 GB Toshiba hard drive, ARM processors, an operating system from Pixo, a lithium polymer battery for added battery life, a high resolution display and of course the scroll wheel- however the first generation scroll wheel was mechanical. While many in the industry didn’t at first notice the importance of this player, the scroll wheel, large storage and extremely intuitive interface made it very easy to hold a library of music and find songs that you would like to play.

Compared to other players at the time that included large storage, the Apple iPod was much easier to navigate giving it an edge. At the time, no one realized just how important the iPod would be to Apple, the music industry and consumers around the world. In fact, when it was first released, many commented on the negatives of the device. It was expensive at $400, the scroll wheel seemed foreign and iPod was not compatible with Microsoft PC’s. However, in a few months time, sales were very brisk and the iPod was rolled out to an excited market in Europe. Later on in the first generation, a more robust 10 GB Toshiba hard drive was available as well.

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