iPod History: 10 Milestones in This Wearable Music Player's Evolution

1 - iPod History: 10 Milestones in This Wearable Music Player's Evolution
2 - iPod Launches to Complement the 'iTunes Digital Jukebox'
3 - Apple Quadruples the Tracks and Windows Joins the Fun
4 - June 2003: Apple Sells Its One-Millionth iPod
5 - Apple Steadily Expands the Product Line
6 - The Cheap iPod Shuffle Is Introduced in 2005
7 - The iPod Touch Hits Store Shelves
8 - The iPhone Starts to Cut Into iPod Sales
9 - Colors and Differentiation Galore
10 - Finally, the iPod Gets DRM-Free Tracks
11 - An End of an Era: Apple Discontinues iPod Classic
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iPod History: 10 Milestones in This Wearable Music Player's Evolution

by Don Reisinger

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iPod Launches to Complement the 'iTunes Digital Jukebox'

The iPod officially launched in October 2001, offering customers the ability to bring 1,000 songs with them wherever they would go. The launch came months after Apple announced iTunes—a platform it called a "digital jukebox"—which would be used to handle the music stored on the device.

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Apple Quadruples the Tracks and Windows Joins the Fun

At launch, the iPod would only work with Macs, leaving out a massive portion of the market. In 2002, Apple fixed that sin by announcing the second-generation iPod that would hold up to 4,000 songs and would be fully compatible with Windows. Not surprisingly, the iPod soon took off as the millions of people around the globe who were cut off from the iPod because of their reliance upon Windows were now able to try it out.

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June 2003: Apple Sells Its One-Millionth iPod

Although the iPod is looked at today as a sales juggernaut, the device wasn't necessarily a blockbuster hit out of the gate. The iPod reached its one-millionth sale in June 2003, meaning it took nearly two years for the device to hit that major milestone. Soon after, however, iPod sales would soar.

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Apple Steadily Expands the Product Line

As Apple's iPod sales started to grow, the company realized that there was a market out there looking for more than just its standard-sized device. That led to Apple's unveiling of the iPod Mini in 2004 and offering it in five different colors. The iPod Mini became a huge hit and ushered in what would be a big year for the iPod, as lifetime sales grew to 10 million units by the end of the year.

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The Cheap iPod Shuffle Is Introduced in 2005

The iPod Shuffle was by no means a major force in the entire music player product line, but it was an important addition to it in 2005. When the device was announced in January 2005, it was billed as a product that could appeal to budget-conscious shoppers. The major difference was that it didn't come with a screen or scroll wheel and could be used solely as a tool to listen to tracks that would be randomly played. Later that year, the iPod Mini was replaced by the first-generation iPad Nano.

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The iPod Touch Hits Store Shelves

The year 2007 represented another major milestone in the iPod's history as Apple unveiled its first touch screen-based iPod Touch. The device was essentially the first-generation iPhone without the phone functionality and came with built-in WiFi. One other important note from that year: Apple's total iPod sales hit 141 million units over its lifetime.

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The iPhone Starts to Cut Into iPod Sales

As time went on and the iPhone's popularity soared, something rather surprising happened: The iPod started to lose some steam. While Apple was still selling millions of units each quarter, the iPhone became its biggest-selling device and sales growth stalled. In 2007, Apple sold 53 million iPods, and annual sales hovered around that level until 2010, when the company sold only 25 million iPod units.

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Colors and Differentiation Galore

As Apple started to see sales plateauing and eventually falling off the cliff at the hands of the iPhone's own music player integration, the company made a hard press on colors and differentiation. A wide range of iPod Nano colors were made available, along with multiple colors on the iPod Shuffle. As of late, even the iPod Touch has gotten into the mix with different color options. Apple's iPod strategy has become all about differentiation.

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Finally, the iPod Gets DRM-Free Tracks

It wasn't until 2009 that Apple finally was allowed by the music labels to start offering the tracks available in iTunes free of Digital Rights Management controls. That allowed people around the globe to download tracks and put them on any device of their choosing without being forced to use Apple products. It didn't hurt iPod sales, but the openness pleased long-time users who had hoped to be able to use the music they legally purchased whenever and however they wanted.

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An End of an Era: Apple Discontinues iPod Classic

Finally, we end in October 2014, when Apple announced that it would need to discontinue the iPod Classic. The device, which included the long-beloved scroll wheel, was not discontinued because of its lack in popularity, but rather because the parts were no longer available. It represented an end of an era and perhaps the beginning of the end for Apple's iPod.

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