The iPod wasn't the first portable music player on the market, but shortly after it debuted, it eclipsed previous players. Like other major breakthroughs, many people participated in the development of the iPod. They ranged from Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs to the countless unnamed members of Apple design and engineering teams.
Moving Into Media
Apple began expanding from hardware to digital media in 1999. That's when Jobs realized Apple's FireWire technology could transfer digital movies to computers. He decided the next wave of iMacs would have FireWire ports, and Apple created iMovie as a movie-editing program. Internet users were already downloading songs in MP3 form, so digital music became part of the firm's media strategy. Apple bought the rights to SoundJam MP, a Mac MP3 player app. One of its creators, Jeff Robbin, led a tech team that turned SoundJam into iTunes.
Make Mine Music
Apple planned to make iTunes music available to MP3 players but discovered players weren't easy to work with. They downloaded music from Macs too slowly and either had bulky hard drives or small ones that held only a few songs. Jobs decided Apple should create its own player and use FireWire to transfer songs faster. Apple engineer Jon Rubinstein discovered a 1.8-inch diameter Toshiba hard drive that would work for a small MP3 player. In 2001, Rubinstein hired engineer Tony Fadell to work out the details.
Putting It Together
Fadell's team used a mix-and-match approach to build the iPod: Toshiba hard drive, Sony battery and a hardware blueprint purchased from startup firm PortalPlayer. Rubinstein told "Wired" magazine in 2006 that the selection of components determined the iPod's flat, rectangular shape. Phil Schiller, Apple marketing head, suggested using a scrolling wheel to scan playlists, scanning faster the faster the wheel turned. That fit with Jobs' idea that a successful player would make it simple for users to navigate content.
Launching the iPod
Apple began work on the iPod in early 2001 with the goal of releasing it before Christmas that year. Apple made that deadline. To market its new product -- different from anything Apple had made before -- it recruited copywriter Vinnie Chieco, who named the device. Chieco told "Wired" he thought the design resembled a lifepod or shuttlepod from a spaceship. Fortunately, Apple had already trademarked "iPod" for an unrelated, never-developed project.
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