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Elegy for the iPod, the device that transformed Apple

Kirk McElhearn | July 22, 2014
The iPod helped turn Apple Computer into Apple, Inc., from a computer company into one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

That said, the iPod isn't dead quite yet. Various versions still rule Amazon.com's list of top-selling MP3 players, with the iPod touch, iPod nano and--yes--the iPod classic currently in the top five.

In some ways, the iPod is now a niche product. It can be great to have a lightweight device specifically for running or exercising. If you want to carry around more music than a 64GB iPhone can hold, the iPod classic will do it. An iPod touch can be great for kids who want to run apps, but who don't need a phone. And the iPod nano offers 16GB storage for a lot less than the touch, and also has Bluetooth, so you can listen on wireless headphones.

Otherwise, the iPod's functionality has been subsumed into other products, chiefly the iPhone. An iPhone or iPad holds enough music for most listeners, and Apple's betting heavily on the cloud to provide more music than an iOS device can hold. The long-rumored iWatch (if Apple actually releases it) will almost certainly offer music playback; that'll likely be a core feature on other future wearables, too.

Because, while the iPod era might be ending, the personal music player period isn't likely to end anytime soon. It looks like the world is shifting from music ownership to subscription-based streaming. Any device with mobile data access will be able to handle that, without the need for a lot of storage or syncing.

There may come a day when nostalgics will look back and revere the iPod era, just as I recall the Walkman days and the music I listened on those devices. The iPod was a transitional device, but a crucial one. We should never forget that the iPod is in many ways the device that turned Apple into the company that we know today. It is arguably the company's most important product ever, because it changed the direction of the company entirely.

 

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