The most iconic and influential piece of technology in the music industry for the last two decades is officially retired. This week Apple stopped selling their infamous music player, the iPod.
The store on Apple’s website was brought back online this week after a press conference announcing new versions of the iPhone and the Apple Watch but didn’t have the latest version of Apple’s original MP3 Player, the iPod Classic. A small suite of spin-off devices -- the iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle -- are still available, but none of these any longer resemble the world-changing simple design of the original.
Originally released in 2001, the iPod is considered by many to the product that ignited the digital music revolution. In a time when MP3 players were clunky and often required users to use buggy software to upload their music, the iPod offered a beautifully simple design. Two years later, Apple released iTunes software, which worked in perfect concert with the iPod.
The power of easily having “a thousand songs in your pocket” put Apple on track to becoming the most valuable company in the world. It also created a viable, legal way to sell music online–something the music industry had failed to do up to that point.
In the past few years, Apple stopped producing upgrades for the iPod design, signalling a change in the market as most people now can use their phones for music listening. What the most recent iteration of the iPod did offer was 160gb of storage, enough to handle the entirety of most personal music libraries.
As bandwidth issues are being dealt with, and better audio formats are developed, more and more listeners have opted to streaming their music from the cloud, this trend could make personal storage devices like the iPod obsolete.
Most streaming, however, still comes with a significant loss of fidelity from the CD quality or better. Companies like Pono and Light Harmonic are hoping to exploit this fact and tap into the growing audiophile market. They’re staking their business models on the hope that the next generation of popular portable music players will be ones that offer HD playback. As for now, though, it’s clear that Apple isn’t making any bets on it.