iPod, therefore I am

Fortune Magazine: Can we expect Apple to move into related consumer electronics businesses?  

Steve: If Apple can find things that are complementary to its core, that's great … I won't go into what other complementary things there might be, but when you look back in a year, it will all make sense.[1]

The world waited, not one, but three years for Steve’s next big Apple thing. He released it hot on the heels of a political and emotional maelstrom that even Steve didn’t see on the horizon.
Three days after 9/11, President George W. Bush grabbed a bullhorn and made history in front of workers at ground zero.
“I can’t hear you,” a worker yelled.
“I can hear you!” W responded. “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”[2]
Around the time of W’s call-to-arms, some guy was mailing envelopes of lethal white powder to reporters. Apple was also mailing mysterious invitations to journalists regarding a secret new gadget. Steve included a teaser, “Hint: It's not a Mac”. Chief technology correspondent for Newsweek, Steven Levy, would usually be the first to arrive at such events. However, he was so depressed about the atmosphere of terrorism, he decided to stay at home. Apple had a messenger drop a unit at his office instead. It was something called an iPod.

This nifty gadget succoured Steven, and millions of other happy customers, in the wake of 9/11. He wrote a book, The Perfect Thing as a homage to a device that healed more than a shrink could in a year’s worth of therapy:

I plugged in the iPod and the world filled up with the Byrds singing 'My Back Pages …The faces around me suddenly became characters in a movie centered around my own memories and emotions. A black-and-white moment of existence had sprung into Technicolor. I held my iPod a bit tighter. …I wasn't exactly forgetting about 9/11, but I was getting excited -- once more -- about technology and its power to transform our world. [3]

Steve was more than happy to sell his techno-placebo to a depressed market looking for a bright light:
I think that we're feeling good about coming out with this at a difficult time. Hopefully it will bring a little joy to people. It's a tough time, but life goes on. It must go on.
At first, it just played music. Five generations later, it included video playback so you could watch Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 on its QGVA display. If you paste your eyeball to its tiny 2.5-inch screen, you can just make out W’s self-satisfied grin as he tees off at the country club.
It took a few years on the market before the device devolved from an escape from terrorism to a terror magnet. An iPod was the alleged detonator in a foiled terrorist plan to blow up twelve passenger jets above five U.S cities.[4] The iPod was then specifically banned from flights leaving the U.K. "Eight hours without an iPod, that's the most inconvenient thing,” complained one young woman from Manchester.[5] A week later, the bomb squad and their dogs were all over a plane at Ottawa Airport after a young guy accidently dropped his iPod in the toilet. Disembarking passengers were questioned by armed police in a utility shed for several hours while “Operation iPod” ran its course.[6] By 2011, both W and 24 were no longer on television fighting terrorists. Rabid anti-terrorism had begun to look a tad silly by then. However, that didn’t stop Air Canada jettison a boy and his father from their flight before take-off. The airline decided to do a Jack Bauer after the child was spotted watching 9/11 footage on his iPod.[7]
When video was introduced to the gadget in 2005, it gave iPod sales a multi-million dollar spike, and gave Robert Semple of Credit Suisse a hard-on for Apple stock. The chief analyst for the multi-national financial services titan reported that the key to the iPod’s success wasn’t new customers but old customers constantly buying new versions. An interview with Forbes Magazine explained why:
…customers appear to be replacing their iPods with new models quicker; Semple estimates the current "lifecycle" of the iPod at approximately 1.5 years, down from two years. … [Semple stated] “it took Sony over 10 years to sell 50 million Walkmans, while Apple reached the same milestone in half the time despite lower market share and stiffer competition”.[8]
Steve had trained his customers well. They had become high-speed consumers, and were getter faster every year. They lined up to buy each new micro-revision introduced with biblically proportioned fanfare. Steve had nurtured a thriving garden of consumerism at its best (or its worst).

[1] Schlender, B. (1998, November 9) The Three Faces Of Steve. Fortune Magazine.
[2] Giulani, R. (2002, September 1) Getting It Right At Ground Zero. Time Magazine.

[3] Levy, S. (2007) The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[4] Laville, S. (2006, August 11) 'A plot to commit murder on an unimaginable scale'. The Guardian.

[5] Welch, D (2006, August 10) Mid-air terror bomb plot foiled. Sydney Morning Herald.

[6] Knight, A. (2006, August 18) Flying the paranoid skies. Ottawa Citizen.

[7] Peat, D. (2011, July 22) Man, son yanked off airliner. Toronto Sun.

[8] Kang, P. (2006, May 23) Apple Still In 'Early Stages' Of IPod Expansion. Forbes Magazine.

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