Do you think high speed Internet access (broadband) combined with p2p file sharing programs (free downloads) were instrumental factors in the success of the iPod? Or was the success of the iPod largely due to its quality as a stand-alone product?
If anything the iPod was helped by the success of iTunes (and vice-versa, they helped each other), which was an easy way for the average Joe in the street to get hold of stuff to put into the iPod. The obvious legit alternative was ripping your own CDs, which was a bother and required a certain level of technical knowledge. In contrast the iPod was popular with them; mums, dads, ordinary people. Broadband wouldn’t have hurt although (I speak only from a UK perspective) it wasn’t ubiquitous in 2001; but then again broadband would have benefited the iPod whether people used p2p networking or not.
See, I didn’t hear of people actually buying music from iTunes until much later, when they got a much better catalog. Even by the time I got my 3G iPod (which was used with music on it), the majority of music was from either CDs or filesharing.
Sure, iTunes eventually became a lot better, but timing is often important on what products do and don’t become popular. Plus, I’m not even sure that iTunes would have been created if not for Napster and other filesharing sites. They showed that people wanted digital music downloads in such large numbers that even getting a fraction of them to pay for it would bring in massive profits.
Note, I don’t blame Apple at all for this. It’s not like I think they were like YouTube, in which one founder deliberately put up copyrighted content in order to grow the service.
I’m trying to remember if I have ever bought anything from iTunes. Very little, if any.
IMHO the progression went like this - MP3 compression programs came first, they allowed you to compress songs on a CD into manageable small files. (1/10th the size). Then, you could play your songs at work or wherever without tying up the CD player, you could have a multi-hour playlist without having to change discs.
The next logical step - everyone began trading these things. Originally, there were BBS’s and FTP sites that allowed download (some, provided you also uploaded something, so a lot of stuff was bogus files uploaded to turn on the download.) I remember trading songs on dial-up, 10 minutes or more for a 4MB song.
Napster was the next logical step - why host a million songs when you had 100 million separate computers do it for you. It was just the central directory. This was when broadband started to become big, I’m sure file trading was one impetus.
Somewhere around where everyone was stripping their CD’s and when trading was getting to be big was the first MP3 player - (Rio, IIRC). Pretty soon everyone was making MP3 players.
The iPod big break was a simple system to buy and load music, and also load your own songs. I found the quality, interface and conrol so much easier and more useable than other mp3 players.
Jobs got Apple’s foot in the door by telling record labels this was only for the Apple, much less than 10% of the computers, and in a non-mp3 format that could not be hacked. Then he came out with the PC version of iTunes… Between the simplicity and the cool design he pretty much dominated the market even though the device was later than most mp3 players to market. Only years later did labels finally start selling iTunes songs as mp3 not copy-protected AAC files.
The other big simplicity is that it avoids all the lawsuits - other mp3 players were just USB storage; you could copy the music up to any device, they doubled as song trading equipment. Apple designed the iPod as a one-way device. Without hacking software you cannopt read someone else’s iPod music.
It was Itunes that made the Ipod a big hit. Remember, Apple was very late in the MP3 player market. P2P drove the pre-Ipod business, but it required you to have some degree of technical knowledge. What Apple did was put a portable media player in the hands of the regular person, with an easy way to get content (legally) without having to mess around with technical stuff.
There were a lot of mp3 players out there before the iPod. I still have and use one that’s pre-iPod. The iPod had the iTunes store plus the Apple mystique (or whatever you want to label it). The iPod is basically the device for people who don’t want to deal with p2p.
Even a limited selection at iTunes probably didn’t bother many people. I’m pulling numbers out of my rear, but I’d wager that the top 10% of songs account for more than 90% of the sales.
iTunes made ripping a CD as simple as putting it into your computer and clicking “Yes” when it asked whether you wanted to import it. For that matter, I actually used iTunes to manage my CD collection for more than a year before I bought any mp3 player or any music through iTunes. I was just relieved that I could put all those plastic discs in the garage and have my music at hand on the computer. The iPod was then just an extension to let me take the music with me.
I think that the iPod became successful because the hardware/software combination made it easy to put your CDs on a player, and because Steve Jobs / Apple convinced record companies to allow people to buy music online at a standard price of 99¢ per song.
The second part would probably not have been possible if record companies hadn’t seen that people were downloading music for free using p2p networks.
So my answer would be that p2p systems like Napster had something to do with the success of the iPod, but were not the main reason.
I think all we can get in here are IMHO answers.
iTunes 1.0 ran on OS9 and only managed music for playing on your computer. It came out well before the iPod existed, or the iTunes store existed. iTunes 2.0 ran on OSX only, and supported the first ever iPod. The iPod was a commercial failure in the first year - it sold a little over 100,000 units. It wasn’t until iTunes was released for Windows that it really took off. The iTunes store was added to iTunes about a year after the first iPod was introduced. Three years after it was introduced the iPod was selling in volumes 100 times that of its first year.
So it is hard to disentangle the different parts of the story. Napster was about before the iPod, but clearly the big win was introducing iTunes for Windows to allow the great unwashed to use the store and the hardware. The first bitTorrent release was at about the same time as the first iPod, but the ecosystem of illegal ripped content probably took a while to establish. The often poor quality of illegal rips back then probably didn’t make such content all that appealing to someone who had spent $400 in 2001 money plus the cost of the Mac or PC. I suspect a very large number of the early years were customers ripping their existing CD collections. I certainly was. Given the relatively low capacity of the early iPods - 20 or 40 GB, even with 128kb/s compression rate most people would not be able to store their entire CD collection.
Music downloaded from iTunes is still in AAC format (though as you note, without DRM), not mp3.
For some of us, the DRM protection held us back. Once they took that off the music files, I started using the iTunes store.
I would say that p2p drove the whole digital music market for sure but the iPod was indeed more for the non p2p user.