For many years, the music industry was not in sync with the massive digital revolution taking place during the 00’s. Music could only be bought on physical hardware like CD’s and records, and subsequently a music pirate industry emerged, wherein users could just download – and essentially steal – music without paying anything to its rights holders.
With iPod, Apple invented a whole new category of portable digital audio player that allowed you to buy and put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go. The iPod is as significant an advance in personal, portable music as was the Sony Walkman twenty thirty years ago.
The product and system was elegantly designed in classic Apple fashion, from the outside in. The company had a vision of what the player should be from the point of view of the user’s experience and what its underlying system should look like. The subsequent design parameters were dictated by its appearance and form factor and user interface.
Yet, the super-cool industrial design and user interface design are not the most significant things about iPod and its online companion iTunes Music Store. What is most important is that Apple created a completely new business model that resolved a decade-long battle between the music industry and the on-line file sharing community. The introduction of free, peer-to-peer music file sharing by Napster in the mid-1990s set off bitter legal battles with music performers and distributors over intellectual property rights. The resulting lawsuits ended with the courts shutting down Napster. IPod resolved all those problems and today IPod downloaders pay 99 cents per tune, making users, performers, and distributors all happy.