SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 05:  Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks in front of a display of the new iPod products during an Apple Special event September 5, 2007 in San Francisco, California. Jobs announced a new generation of iPods as well as a partnership with Starbucks to access music being played at Starbucks coffee shops with the new iPod Touch.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The iPod created the two-headed monster that finally killed it | Engadget

It’s been a long time since the iPod died. In a way, it’s already been eight years since Apple discontinued the iPod classic. However, with the news this week that Apple will stop production of the latest iPod, the touch matters: This officially marks the official end of a product that has built the company up for two decades of success.

Much has been written about how the iPod changed Apple’s fortunes, transforming the company from an influential but dedicated computer maker to one of the largest in the world. Likewise, the iPod’s impact on the music industry almost speaks for itself at this point. The device slowly but surely ended the era of CD and moved people into a world where they could only buy a few songs off an album instead of paying $15 for everything on a plastic disc.

This is probably why the death of the iPod brand doesn’t feel all that noticeable, despite the fact that I was one of the first iPod users to quickly enter the Apple ecosystem. It was inevitable that Apple would eventually stop selling the iPod touch, just as the end of the iPod classic in 2014 felt delayed.

Perhaps this is because the consumer technology and music industries have long since moved on from the iPod. It’s no exaggeration to say the iPod reversed the fortunes of Apple and the recording industry — but we’ve since experienced yet another seismic shift that has made the iPod feel as appealing as the CD.

The iPod has been responsible for many major changes in the way music is consumed. In the 2000s, CD sales started to decline as more and more people started buying music through digital storefronts such as the iTunes Music Store. There, you could get an album for $10 or a single song for $1, a huge discount on CDs at the time. And while many people still buy entire albums, de-associating songs from the record has pushed custom CDs and playlists to the front of how people listen to music. Both the iPod and the iTunes Store have eliminated the romance (and the burden) on the physical music library while giving listeners more freedom in how they buy and listen to music.

But in 2022, the music industry underwent a second drastic change. For many, the concept of owning music is outdated. Spotify, Apple Music, and the like have all taken us to a place where we pay for access — a catalog of nearly 90 million songs — rather than proprietary. The idea of ​​the album is less relevant now than it was during the heyday of the iPod, as streaming services curated playlists for us, based on our listening history and what’s popular. Apple, Spotify, and their competitors are now de facto DJs, directing listeners to new music as radio DJs have done for decades.

A big part of Steve Jobs’ presentation of the iTunes store was that it was a response to piracy and a way for music creators to get paid. The thinking was that the store would offer a greatly improved experience for dealing with meager hacking apps so that people wouldn’t mind paying a few bucks here and there to download songs, thus putting money back into the artists’ pockets.

However, in the age of broadcasting, debate rages over the fairness of music streaming payments to artists and songwriters. While the iTunes Store was Apple’s first offering with its controversial 30 percent, there’s been a growing buzz in recent years about how Spotify is splitting payments to artists into fractions of cents per stream. Musicians often made more money from tours and merchandise sales than album sales, and now that most people are starting to stream instead of buying music, that gap has widened even further. (This is without reference to how much tourism revenue the artists have made since the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Just as the music industry has progressed since the shift fueling the iPod in the 2000s, the consumer tech industry no longer resembles the one in which the iPod was dominant. The iPod is designed as a device that does a good job: Playing your music and podcast library. Sure, you’ve picked up other features over the years (most notably viewing your photos and playing videos), but music has always been its raison d’être.

A number of other single-purpose machines flourished around the same time. Amazon introduced the first Kindle in 2007, digital cameras have made the most of the trend over the decade, and the Flip Video camera briefly spent time in the spotlight, to name a few. But the modern smartphone, which Apple itself started with the iPhone, has largely eliminated the need for a dedicated music player, not to mention most other gadgets designed for this. We have now entered 15 years into the age of convergence, where the smartphone is the most versatile and important device we carry.

It is no coincidence that the last iPod sold was the iPod touch, a device that is essentially an iPhone without a phone. For years, it was a good option for kids or people who couldn’t afford an iPhone, but giving kids a phone wasn’t as taboo as it used to be, while monthly payment plans meant more people could afford it. It’s not clear who the iPod touch was in 2022.

Apple may be pulling the iPod plug now, but the world moved on years ago. We are past the point where those of us who are nostalgic for the iPod can be considered youth; If the advent of the iPad has been a defining experience for you, you’re probably an old millennial at best. I’m not saying all this to downplay the iPod. On the contrary, looking at how far we’ve come over the past 20 years reveals just how much the iPod has transformed music and technology.

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2022-05-13 13:02:02

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