Editor’s note: We originally published this illustrated history of the iPod to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary on Oct. 22, 2011 (and updated it a decade later). We republished it on May 10, 2022, when Apple finally pulled the plug on the iPod.
The iPod grew out of Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. Life was going digital. People were plugging all kinds of devices into their computers: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players.
The computer was the central device, the “digital hub,” that could be used to edit photos and movies or manage a large music library. Jobs tasked Apple’s programmers with making software for editing photos, movies and managing digital music. While they were doing this, they discovered that all the early MP3 players were horrible. Jobs asked his top hardware guy, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could do better.
March 15, 2004: The iTunes Music Store hits a musical milestone, having sold an astonishing 50 million songs in less than a year. The achievement cements Apple’s place at the center of the rapidly changing music business — at least for the moment.
“Crossing 50 million songs is a major milestone for iTunes and the emerging digital music era,” Steve Jobs said in a statement. “With over 50 million songs already downloaded and an additional 2.5 million songs being downloaded every week, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine others ever catching up with iTunes.”
February 26, 2008: Less than five years after launching, the iTunes Music Store becomes the No. 2 music retailer in the United States, second only to Walmart.
In that relatively short period, iTunes sells more than 4 billion songs to more than 50 million customers. The rapid rise to prominence stands as a massive achievement for Apple — and for the revolutionary digital distribution model Cupertino helped pioneer.
November 20, 2007: In a milestone for iTunes movie distribution, Purple Violets becomes the first feature film to launch exclusively on Apple’s platform.
A romantic comedy directed by Edward Burns, Purple Violets stars Selma Blair, Debra Messing and Patrick Wilson. With limited offers from Hollywood’s traditional players, the filmmakers pin their hopes on iTunes distribution as an alternative way to get their movie in front of viewers.
November 6, 2003: After porting iTunes to Windows, Apple sets a new record for digital music sales: a massive 1.5 million downloads in one week.
Bringing iTunes to PC users opens up a new, lucrative market for Apple. The record-breaking sales clock in at five times more than the 300,000 downloads Napster (remember it?) achieved in its debut week. And 1.5 million is double the 600,000 iTunes downloads per week Apple reported selling to Mac users prior to the Windows release.