Happy 5th Birthday, iPod [updated]

OK, so shamelessly jumping on the 5th anniversary of the iPod here, but what can I say? Just about every client that I meet with today wants an iPod for their industry, regardless of what that industry is. A few years ago I regularly included a few slides in my Powerpoints about why the iPod sucked, to provoke a reaction. For the record, the list included such things as:

  1. Too few features, too high a price
  2. Too easily scratched
  3. Can’t replace the battery
  4. No way to attach a belt clip
  5. Simple operations, like activating shuffle play, required multiple menu picks

The next slide, of course, detailed why the iPod had rapidly ascended to massive dominance of the portable mp3 category, slaying more established players before it. We all know those reasons: system integration, iconic style, $10 million ad campaign, and an inventive interface (though I contend still not that good to use over the long haul, despite improvements).

It all seems so obvious and inevitable now, but let’s not forget that when the iPod was introduced it was seen as far from a sure thing. It was announced at a press-only event, not a big hullabaloo event like MacWorld, was considered over-priced and underfeatured compared to other products from Creative and Archos, and the fact that it was only available on the Mac platform vastly limited its appeal. And this was the same Mac platform that had vultures circling, as it had not nearly recaptured the cachet that it did today. OS X hadn’t even come out yet - that was still over another year away. iTunes had been out for a little while but hadn’t exactly set the world on fire.

(Macworld has some nice coverage of the mixed reviews the iPod got at the time, along with a timeline of its introductions, and more general coverage.) 

 Wired also has a good article about the development of the iPod. There’s an interesting note at the end of it about the name, which was originally trademarked for an interactive kiosk which never saw the light of day. I’ve heard before that iPod was not the first choice (a rather plain name which was already taken, as I recall - if anyone can point me to the facts on this, I’d appreciate it), but hadn’t heard this twist before. Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good…

 [UPDATE: Really good article over at Adaptive Path’s blog on Steve Job’s speech/demo of the iPod at its introduction, with a breakdown of how it’s a model of a good product pitch, and how to embody your company and customers’s values in a way that is not obnoxiously focused on the bottom line.]