By Chinelo Eze
May 12, 2022 | 09:00
At the height of its power, the pocket music player known as the iPod moved tens of millions of units each year, helping Apple take the world by storm and transform the music industry. But that was ages ago in the mid-2000s in the tech industry. After years of declining sales, the American tech giant has announced…
At the height of its power, the pocket music player known as the iPod moved tens of millions of units each year, helping Apple take the world by storm and transform the music industry.
But that was ages ago in the mid-2000s in the tech industry. After years of declining sales, the US tech giant announced on Tuesday that it was halting production after 21 years.
“It’s clearly one of the products launched by Apple that has completely changed our lives,” Francisco Jeronimo of analyst firm IDC told AFP.
Social media has been flooded with emotional tributes under the “iPod RIP” banner.
“Noooo, iPod touch, you were too pure for this world!” tweeted entrepreneur Anil Dash.
“Good night, sweet prince. You will not be forgotten,” tweeted Apple enthusiast Federico Viticci.
The device was born in 2001 with the promise of “putting 1,000 songs in your pocket”.
At $400, it was barely cheap.
But its 5GB of storage outpaced the competition, its mechanical wheel was instantly iconic, and it allowed for a steady stream of music decoupled from conventional albums.
In the years that followed, prices fell, storage space expanded, colors and models multiplied and sales exploded.
“It didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry,” Apple founder Steve Jobs said of the iPod in 2007.
Few would disagree.
Digital music was still in its infancy and closely associated with piracy.
File-sharing platform Napster had horrified the industry by giving up on any idea of paying record labels or musicians.
In this context, Apple has succeeded in persuading record company bosses to sanction the sale of individual titles for 99 cents.
“We folded because we had no leverage,” Albhy Galuten, an executive at Universal Music Group at the time, told The New York Times on Tuesday.
For years, bands ranging from AC/DC to the Beatles to Metallica refused to allow Apple to sell their music.
But the industry has since found a way to stay hugely profitable and even embrace technology like streaming.
It was the first legal model for digital music, industry expert Marc Bourreau told AFP.
After the system’s initial shock, he said the industry has learned to embrace — and monetize — the technology.
“People are now spending money like they weren’t before,” Bourreau said, pointing to streaming money.
“By that logic, the music industry is doing very well.”
But the writing was on the wall for the iPod as far back as 2007 when Jobs launched the iPhone.
With theatrical flair, he told an expectant audience that the new product was an “iPod, telephone and Internet communicator”.
It was lighting a fire under its own product even though at the time it accounted for around 40% of Apple’s revenue, according to Statista analysis.
Five years later, the iPod’s revenue share had fallen below 10% and it was overtaken by the iPhone.
People no longer needed both products in their lives, and Apple no longer needed both in its portfolio.
“I don’t see why people would buy music players in the future,” Jeronimo said.
“Music players are now part of other devices – in cars, smart speakers, watches, even smart glasses.”
The iPod and all its imitators seem likely to follow the Sony Walkman into a long twilight of nostalgic fandom and eBay product listings from a bygone era.