So farewell to the iPod.
More than any other Apple device, it was the one that convinced the world that Steve Jobs and then Tim Cook would dominate our digital and tech lives for decades to come.
But the iPod wasn’t Apple’s first hit. And it lived among a couple of Apple misses, too.
Since I’ve been around long enough to use and review most of them, here are the top eight Apple products that changed the world, plus a handful that fell flat.
1. The Macintosh (1984)
I remember my mother bringing one of these to the house in Dublin when I was a child.
She was a journalist and her office had paid the IR£3,300 that cost her.
It was a small beige box with a built-in 9-inch monochrome screen. It had an accessory called a “mouse” that controlled a hovering arrow on the screen.
That was a full six years before Microsoft introduced Windows.
My neighbor across the street was still trying to figure out if F8 or F11 was the key they needed to press to get something done. But in our house we could do things like drag and drop folders.
We could “double-click” to open files and use different fonts to write letters or school projects. I was totally in love with it.
I was used to friends’ Sinclair Spectrums, Amstrads and Commodore 64s. But the Macintosh was a different matter altogether. It was the future.
And so it turned out that every popular computer built since then basically copied what the Macintosh had done.
2. iMac (1998)
It wasn’t until 14 years later that Apple really had its next big hit.
Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in the early 1990s, leading to the company’s failure. Then he returned in 1997 – the result was immediate and a smash hit.
The iMac was in some ways like the company’s other Macintoshes, but it was repackaged in different colors and with a carrying handle.
It fired people’s imagination and creativity and sold tens of millions worldwide. It has also bailed out Apple financially – the company had been close to pulling the plug on its Irish operations due to a string of disappointing product launches in the non-Steve interregnum.
3. iPod (2001)
This was Apple’s most important and groundbreaking product for me.
Yes, the iPhone was his top-selling overall product. But the iPod was the first true, mass-market, handheld digital device that Apple made. It has also completely transformed the music industry and indirectly the internet and e-commerce industries.
I remember being one of the first in Ireland to get my hands on one as a recently hired journalist covering all things tech.
Up to this point we had mostly been messing around with CD Walkman devices, as normal Walkman clones that played on tape were fading as tapes became obsolete.
The one I had – a 5GB model – could hold about 1,000 songs. It’s hard to imagine today, but that was overwhelming for a time when CD changers were still considered a luxury in a home hi-fi system.
Equally important was the accompanying software called iTunes.
This was the first system that allowed you to legally buy individual songs (for 99p each) as well as albums. You can also easily digitize your own CD collection with it.
After all, all of this was easier to do on an iMac than on a PC, where it was still a bit fidgety and low-res: it reassured Mac owners that they were way ahead of Microsoft’s competitors.
4. iPhone (2007)
“It’s an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.”
Steve Jobs’ launch game went down in history as a great marketing pitch. And not without merit.
Not only is this Apple’s largest footprint in the world, it’s the most important and impactful invention of the 21st century to date.
The iPhone has turned several industries upside down.
One has to bear in mind that when Nokia was launched it had a 70 percent market share of mobile phones in Ireland and more than 40 percent worldwide.
Within three years it was almost dead as a phone company because of Steve Jobs’ smartphone.
The associated App Store is almost as important for world culture as the iPhone itself: without it there would be no TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook.
5. MacBook Air (2008)
It may get lost in Apple product lists, but the impact the MacBook Air had on what we define as a laptop cannot be underestimated.
Typically, it was another Steve Jobs hit: an impossibly thin laptop that fit in an envelope but had enough power to house a decent motor to power almost anything for work or play.
All other computer companies quickly copied the device with their own “ultra-thin” laptops. It is now considered a staple of laptop design.
6. iPad (2010)
I remember giggling when Steve Jobs announced the name on stage: Apple’s 10-inch iPhone double seemed to have sanitary connotations.
However, the iPad quickly became a hit, selling tens of millions in its first two years.
After seeing what the iPhone had done, some industries rushed to reshape their businesses around the iPad, with mixed success.
The news industry, desperate for an antidote to the print world of the internet, thought the iPad might be their savior and mass-produced apps to try and lure readers.
Results were modest compared to other services on Apple products.
Since 2010, the iPad has had mixed sales cycles.
People hang on to them much longer than phones or computers, resulting in fewer replacement sales. And while the iPad Pro devices have gained some traction, they’re not monster sellers to compare with Apple’s other top-tier gadgets.
7. Apple Watch (2015)
Of all Apple’s best-selling products, the Apple Watch is probably the least appreciated.
While not discussed in the same way as the iPod, iPhone, or Mac, it was still an industry-rising, game-changing bestseller.
For the past three years, it has been the best-selling watch – of any type, digital or non-digital – in the world.
If you wear a watch, there’s a greater chance it’s an Apple Watch than anything else. This has also created a halo effect on other smartwatches and fitness watches. In general, they now outsell analog watches by far.
8. AirPods (2017)
It’s hard to believe now, but there weren’t any mass-market wireless earbuds before the AirPods made their debut in 2017.
In those short five years, AirPods have grown into a juggernaut of a business.
If they were spun off from Apple, AirPods would be one of the larger tech companies in the world from their own sales.
As is usual for Apple hits, the AirPods have spawned a slew of copycats from Samsung to Bose, Sennheiser and dozens of budget brands.
1. Apple Newton (1993)
It was to be Apple’s Palm Pilot, a personal organizer that would integrate the simple interface of an Apple computer with your daily work and lifestyle plans.
But despite being the handwriting-recognizing device, Apple’s Newton was mistreated by the (Steve Jobs-less) company and came at a price few were willing to pay.
It was discontinued in 1998, a year after Steve returned to the company.
2. Pippi (1996)
From the start, Apple’s internet-connected gaming console was just a flop that nobody cared about. It was discontinued a year later.
3. G4 Cube (2000)
Despite its triumph with the iMac, Steve Jobs’ G4 Cube was plagued with practical problems. It looked spectacular but tended to crack the clear case, cost a fortune and required too many external accessories (e.g. speakers).
4. iTunes Ping (2010)
This was a feeble attempt by Apple to create some sort of social network using iTunes.
It failed, in part because Apple and Facebook couldn’t agree on a collaboration, meaning it wasn’t possible to find your friends across the dominant social network of the era.
5.iPhone 4 (2010)
This was actually a hit product, except for one thing: its antenna. The phone would drop calls due to antenna placement. It led to Steve Jobs telling people to just do things differently.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/as-the-ipod-finally-powers-down-here-are-the-best-of-apples-groundbreaking-devices-and-ones-consigned-to-the-tech-graveyard-41640030.html As the iPod finally shuts down, here are Apple’s best breakthrough devices — and ones that were sent to the tech graveyard