The iPod celebrates its ten year anniversary in 2011. Since its launch on Oct 23rd 2001, six generations of the device have been produced, with more than 300 million units sold of the various iterations. On September 1, 2010 Apple announced updates to the entire iPod line – with the sole exception of the iPod Classic. Some are wondering whether this could mean the end of the product that sparked Apple's resurgence.
The small, sleekly designed player, together with its associated online music store, has been one of the most successful and revolutionary products of the noughties. Apple's chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, who saw potential in the new digital media player market, commissioned Apple engineer Jon Rubinstein to design a product in keeping with Apple's minimalist style. He assembled a team of engineers to design the iPod line, including hardware engineers Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey, and design engineer Jonathan Ive.
Proclaiming the ability to put 1,000 songs in your pocket, the iPod was easy to use and featured a simple, clean design. Small white earbud headphones became an iconic trademark of the product in Apple's award-winning advertising campaigns. With its ease of use and eventual cross-platform compatibility, the device stormed to market dominance.
Initially, the only color choice was white. It had a black and white LCD with 5GB capacity and a distinctive mechanical scroll wheel with four buttons that was used to control the device. This first generation was not compatible with Windows and offered a battery life of ten hours.
In its 2nd generation, the iPod grew from 5 to 10GB, then 20GB by December 2002. It now sported a touch-sensitive scroll wheel and had become compatible with PCs, coming boxed with the Musicmatch Jukebox software.
By the 3rd generation the controlling buttons moved above the scrollwheel and became touch sensitive. Capacity grew to 40GB and iTunes was now available for Windows users. The 4th generation removed the buttons and eventually included a color screen that displayed photos while capacity grew to a maximum of 60GB.
The 5th generation played video and increased the capacity to 80GB and by the 6th generation you got a thinner model with a better battery life and the choice of two models, in two colors - 80GB or 160GB – black or silver.
My prediction is that after Apple releases a ten year anniversary special edition model sporting an even larger drive (up to 320GB?), the iPod Classic will be discontinued and a 128GB iPod touch will be the mass storage model. We now have the sleek and precise interface of the touch screen Apple products – in comparison, scrolling around the menu system of the ten year old iPod seems imprecise and outdated (though there is some controversy on this point in the Gizmag office).