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Rise and Fall of the iPod (and What’s Next)

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I remember back in 2003, there was only one thing in the world I wanted. I saved all my money and looked at the advertisements about the mystical gadget every day. After much saving, I was finally able to get it: a third generation white, bulky iPod. I threw out my Walkman and uploaded the 1,000 or so songs that could fit on it and never looked back.

So, with the upcoming announcement of the new iPhone, I was curious about whatever happened to Apple’s Golden Child that everyone once desired? Rumors of its demise are swirling from Tech sites, so it’s time for reflection. Here’s a brief history of the rise and fall of the iPod and what’s next for the iconic music player.

The creation of the iPod (2001)
It seems almost quaint to think of a time when Apple was struggling with innovation. In the 90s, Microsoft was king and PCs were the norm. Luckily, Apple saw some success with the release of the bulbous iMac in 1998. That gave Apple some money and confidence to design their own digital music player because existing ones were giant and there wasn’t a market for them yet. With the help of designer Jonathan Ive, the product was designed with a 5GB hard drive and unveiled on Oct. 23, 2001.

The rise and ubiquity of the iPod (2001-2006)
The simple user interface made it an instant success. You can’t underestimate the importance of the iPod to Apple’s current momentum because it gave Apple financial security. Over the next six years, more than 100 million iPods were sold in their various formats. By 2005, the 5 GB black and white iPod turned into an 80 GB iPod that could also hold color pictures.

The classic iPod also spawned an array of little brothers and sisters, including the iPod Nano, short-lived iPod Mini and iPod Shuffle. Everywhere you went, you’d see someone hold some incarnation of the iPod and Apple loved every minute of it. The iPod set a standard that other companies tried to mimic, including the ill-fated Zune.

Knocked off its throne by the iPhone (2007-2010)
In 2007, Apple released yet another game-changing device called the iPhone. A bit after the iPhone, they also released the iPod Touch, which was essentially an iPhone without phone capabilities. When you look at charts around 2007, you see the emergence and explosion of iPhone revenues towering over the iPod. During the holiday season of 2009, there’s about $6 billion in iPhone revenue to about $3 billion in iPod revenue. In no way is that amount of money anything to scoff at, but the creation of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch means the classic is now small potatoes.

What’s next for the iPod? (2011)
It goes without saying that the iPod Touch will likely survive and there may be another update during the announcement of the new iPhone. However, there’s been a crescendo of rumors saying the classic is finished. Whereas once the iPod division amounted to about 22 percent of the company’s revenue three years ago, it’s now less than 5 percent of $28.6 billion in total revenue. Storage is probably the only upside to the current incarnation of the iPod (with 120 GB), but the introduction of the iCloud might make that advantage obsolete for many people. Chances are the classic iPod is finished.

A little iPod in everything
Even if the iPod is discontinued, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the iPod fell from grace because there’s actually a little bit of iPod in nearly every electronic product we use. The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad have a built-in iPod classic and all other products mimic simple user interfaces made ubiquitous by the iPod. Although the classic incarnation of the iPod may disappear, its presence and impact will remain within everything essential to our daily lives.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a freelance writer and blogs about a number of topics, including state-of-the-art camping equipment for Camping Gear Outlet.

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