Launching Apple 2.0
This week’s milestones in the history of technology include the reinvention of Apple as the successful destroyer of artificial industry boundaries, the birth of continental instant communications, the Internet and Internet advertising, and of the newsreel, today’s social media.
October 23, 2001
Steve Jobs introduces the iPod at a special event at Apple’s headquarters, telling the assembled reporters “This is a major, major breakthrough.”
There were other music players on the market at the time but they were conceived as a digital Walkman. The iPod was designed as a pocket computer, with an operating system, a 5 gigabytes hard drive, and 32 megabytes of memory. The unusual amount of memory for devices of this kind at the time, helped extend the battery life to ten hours. The user interface had no equals. And as the first iPod used a high-speed Firewire cable, downloading 1,000 songs from the Mac (the only computer the first version worked with) took only 10 minutes, as opposed to the very slow USB connections of competing devices. “Plug it in. Whirrrrrr. Done,” Jobs told Fortune.
But perhaps the most important element in the iPod’s success was that it was introduced as a “platform” running numerous applications, thanks to the iTune software which was first made available in January of 2001 (bolstered in 2003 by the introduction of the iTune Store). The iPod platform or “ecosystem” spawned numerous new applications and types of uses and users. A good example are podcasts which became “the hot medium for disenfranchised former radio hosts and comics… who set up studios, recorded shows without fear of censorship or sponsor outrage, and became even more popular than they were before.”
George Lang continues: “Jobs was at the fore of many of the greatest innovations of the past 30 years, but his most important achievement was to make computers feel like extensions of their users’ personalities. The iPod was a simple box, ready to be filled with all of a user’s favorite things.”
The iPod was Apple’s first successful foray into “consumer electronics,” at the time an industry completely distinct from the computer industry and dominated by the likes of Sony. In January 2007, at the launch of the first iPhone, Steve Jobs announced that he company will change its name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple Inc.
In 2001, however, not everyone was convinced that getting into consumer electronics was a good move for Apple Computer. After all, the iPod was released by a PC company with 5% market share and declining sales. In a story titled “Apple’s iPod spurs mixed reactions,” CNET reported:
IDC analyst Bryan Ma said Apple may take some heat for entering the consumer electronics market, which typically has lower profit margins than Apple gets from its computers. But, he added, the iPod could serve an important function: convincing people to buy a Mac instead of a PC. … Technology Business Research analyst Tim Deal dinged the $399 price as “a little high.” … Deal praised the fact that the iPod fits into Apple’s digital hub strategy. “However, I question the company’s ability to sell into a tight consumer market right now at the iPod’s current price… Apple lacks the richness of Sony’s product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively.”… Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Intelect, said that the iPod will likely stand out for its large storage capacity but predicted that the device may have trouble digging out a niche in the market.
On the iPod’s 10th anniversary, CNET wrote:
Customers snapped up more than 125,000 iPods in the first two months it was on sale. Sales continued to grow, more than quintupling in some cases, peaking when Apple proceeded to run through four consecutive years of people buying more than 50 million iPods.
That same ecosystem was bolstered by the simultaneous growth of Apple’s iTunes software, an integral part of the iPod sales machine and Apple’s hardware and software combination. All told, Apple has now sold more than 320 million iPods since launching it a decade ago, as well as increasing its lineup to multiple form factors, colors and capacities.
On July 27, 2017, David Pierce wrote in Wired:
The iPod died slowly, then all at once. After nearly 16 years on the market, more than 400 million units sold, and one Cupertino company launched into the stratosphere on its back, Apple quietly pulled the iPod Nano and Shuffle out of its virtual stores today. The iPod Touch still lives on: In fact, Apple now offers the Touch with 32 gigs of storage starting at $199. But that’s not a real iPod; it’s an iPhone-lite. Today officially marks the end of Apple’s era of standalone music players.
October 24, 1861
The transcontinental telegraph, the first instant communications link between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, is completed. Instant communications made the Pony Express obsolete, and it officially ceased operations two days later. For its 18 months of operation, the Pony Express reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about ten days.
Life without instant communications (and before travel by railway), is described by Stephen Ambrose in Undaunted Courage: “A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat … no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing ever had moved any faster, and, as far as contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would.”
October 27, 1994
HotWired, the first commercial Web magazine, gives birth to the first Web banner ad and the Internet advertising industry. Last year, revenues from Internet advertising in the U.S. exceeded that generated by TV advertising for the first time, reaching $72.5 billion, up 22% from 2015. Mobile advertising, growing at 77%, accounted for more than half (51%) of Internet advertising for the first time.
October 28, 1927
The first biweekly Movietone newsreel premiers at the Roxy Theater in New York City. Newsreels were a source of news, current affairs, and entertainment for millions of moviegoers until television supplanted them in the 1950s. In 2013, Television was still cited as one of two major sources of news by 69% of Americans, followed by a rapidly-rising Internet, cited by 50%. By 2015, the share of Americans for whom Twitter and Facebook serve as a source of news is has reached 63%. In July of 2016, 81% of Americans consumed at least some of their news through websites, apps or social networking sites.
October 29, 1969
Leonard Kleinrock and Charley Kline send the first message ever sent over the ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet, from their network node at UCLA to Bill Duvall at SRI. They attempted to transmit the word “login,” as in logging into the SRI computer from their computer at UCLA. They succeeded in transmitting the “l” and the “o” and then the system crashed. Hence, says Kleinrock, the first message on the Internet was “lo“, as in “lo and behold!” They were able to do the full login about an hour later.