On October 23, 2001, Steve Jobs convened a group of tech reporters and Apple fans at the company’s Cupertino headquarters to announce a new product: the iPod. It was a launch that would lead the company, six years later, to drop the “Computer” from “Apple Computer.” It was a launch that would change ”the destiny of Apple.” It was a launch that would, as one slightly melodramatic analyst puts it, ”reshape society completely.”
But on October 23, 2001, if you didn’t happen to be Steve Jobs, you might not have seen the iPod’s society-reshaping potential. You might have seen the iPod, instead, for the other thing it was: just another MP3 player. On the day of its release—when the iPod was simply a consumer electronics product in search of its consumers—reactions to it were decidedly … mixed. (“Apple’s iPod spurs mixed reactions,” reads a CNET summary of the launch.) The iPod, after all, wasn’t the first portable jukebox. Its software and FireWire ports made it available, in its first iteration, only to Macintosh users. (At the time, only about 7 million people owned iPod-compatible Macs.) The iPod, from that perspective, was a small step forward, not a leap. And, at $399, it was an expensive little step.
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