The late 1990s saw the launch of several portable MP3 players as substitutes for Walkman and portable CD players. However, their sales were lukewarm. In 2001, Apple entered the digital music industry with the launch of the iPod, and the effort was panned initially. Critics commented that iPod would die down without a whimper but were proven wrong in time.
There is one single, overarching reason that the iPod has enjoyed the success that it has: Apple had a plan, followed through on it, and didn’t deviate from it over time. It made a simple product that to this day performs the same task that it did on the day it was announced. It might do other things today, but those are secondary. The iPod was all about the music, and keeping it simple.
Lee Iacocca, former Ford Chairman, said that selling a product is about solving customer problems. If you do not understand the customer well, you cannot sell any product. You would be wasting time and losing credibility. Innovations happen when you try to solve a customer’s pain.
Being passionate music enthusiasts, the Apple team could understand the problems faced by other music aficionados. The Apple team believed that designing the new portable music player would be like creating a mini-PC, because there were several similarities. They felt that Apple was best equipped to provide a seamless experience due to their knowledge in developing hardware and software for Mac computers that just keep it simple. The combination of unique processes, facilities, loyal fanbase, OS development, and knowledge in electronics, styling, product’s external finishes, PCB manufacturing, enclosure manufacturing, assembly lines, operational efficiency, UI would help the design of the new product.
Apple’s team observed that focusing on a few uncomplicated functions would bring down the processing power, battery, and memory requirements. It would also result in lowering the cost of the device. Another benefit was that the smaller components would lead to a reduction in the overall size of the music player. It could truly become a pocket-sized device for on-the-go fun.
Ease of use was the critical factor that would help in providing a seamless experience to a customer. Making their device as easy to use as possible for all users is a mantra Apple still holds dear, which proved to be a very important factor for the tech titan in all spheres.
In summary, iPod succeeded because Apple offered a seamless experience by integrating the iPod, the iTunes Software Application, the iTunes Store, Firewire, and an easily accessible Business Model for selling music. With its sleek style and easy to use interface, it paved the way for a whole generation of gadgets in the decades that followed.