The iPod is perhaps the most talked about technological product in recent times. It has set sales records that have lave literally destroyed the predictions of all analysts by superseding everyone’s expectations. The interesting issues concerning this topic is how the iPod impacted not only the digital Music electronics industry, but was also responsible for the turnaround of a company on the brink of bankruptcy.
It is this very fact that makes the growth and life cycle of iPod an experience in itself and one that creates a sense of wonder at its success. But how did all this come about and just why did the iPod do so well? These are questions that we look to find answers towards whilst shedding light on the internal pressures faced by the parent company Apple.
The paper takes the reader through the history of the parent company Apple and its declining fortunes until the introduction of the iPod. This revolutionary innovation then dictated the pace at which the organisation was able to turn itself around to become one of the more successful computer companies in the world today. The report also looks at how Apple as a company defines itself with the onset of the iPod boom – can it still call itself a computer company in the literal sense of the word or does it now see itself entering a diversified phase of business operations and hence, would need to re-think it’s overall business strategy and core competencies.
The views of different writers expressed through the paper help in building an understanding of the pressures the company has undergone over the last decade and why it has taken the decisions that it has. The paper revolves around the growth of the iPod as the key driving force for all major business and technical decisions, it understand how it had to be re-modelled and adapted to the market needs and demands. The paper also paints the competitive landscape at different stages of the growth cycle and how this impacted or did not impact the iPod.
Finally, the paper looks at the varying consumer tastes, the positives drawn from the product itself and what lies in store for the future of the product and the company. The methods used to create a deeper understanding of the iPod environment were through a variety of primary and secondary sources. Some of this is discussed in greater detail in different section of the paper. However, for the purpose of this report, the researcher took great care in trying to put together different pieces of work by various writers so as to be able to provide more holistic and all-encompassing view of the real scenario that surrounded the iPod boom. On a more generic note, most writers and experts within the industry agreed that the success of this product was unrivalled by others of its kind in recent times.
Success stories always find their way to centre-stage. But what makes a journey even more interesting is when accompany that finds itself in some level of difficulty turns the tide and jump starts its engines to climb to the top of the success ladder. Apple’s is one such story. Whilst the problems that affect it lie in the background, the phenomenal success of its iPod has people fascinated. Marketing gurus swear by the growth of this innovative product that provided the perfect solution to a generation that was technologically familiar and defied competition to control every conceivable bit of the market that it entered – the digital music space, and made it its own. How and why is what we attempt to discover.
The history of the iPod dates back to the January of 2001. Apple had just introduced ‘iTunes’ – a programme that enabled Accusers to burn music off audio CD’s and convert them into music files on their computer systems as digital audio files. This provided users with the flexibility of creating libraries for their music files, clubbing favourite songs in order and in time to come, download them to portable devices.
This natural extension saw the introduction of the iPod in the month of October 2001. Unlike other portable devices in the same range, the iPod was the first of its kind to store music files on a hard disk similar to a computer. Other devices used flash cards and detachable storage devices that could not hold as many bytes of data as the iPod did. Infect, the first few iPods had a 5GB storage space, which equated to the storage of approximately a 1000 songs. The question to be asked at this stage was if the software for writing music to the computer was developed keeping the iPod in mind? However, sources within the company maintain that the iPod was only conceptualised 6 months before its release date. Whatever the truth might be, the two scenarios complemented each other beautifully giving consumers the best of both worlds and a logical extension to the process of listening to music.
In November 2001, the first iPods were shipped to waiting buyers and byte end of the year, 125,000 iPods had been sold for a price of $399.Within a year, other computer companies as well as large retailers were selling iPods as value-adds. Dell, Best Buy and Target were some of the more prominent names at this stage and had dedicated sites and sales teams pushing for iPod sales.
By June 2003, Apple had managed to sell 1 million iPods, which could download music from both Macs as well as PCs. Interestingly, by the end of 2003, one of its largest resellers Dell; had decided not to sell anymore iPods and instead launch its own version of the iPod called the DJ(Digital Jukebox). In order to download songs from the Internet, Dell partnered with a company called Music Match that offered that service.
By mid-2004, 6 months after it hit the 1 million mark, Apple crossed the 2 million mark in iPod sales but the peripheral market was just getting warmed up to the portable devices segment. In addition to thud by Dell, HP announced that it was repackaging the 4G iPod and selling it as a PC friendly device. Motorola launched its next generation phones that would be iTunes compatible. In one of the more recent statistics of the iPod wave collated in October 2004, there were some interesting findings. Apple held 82 per cent of the digital market across all music players and 92 per cent of all hard-disk based music players.
The nearest competitor to the iPod was the device launched by Creative. They had a 3.7 per cent market share. In addition, 2 million iPods are being sold every 3 months. The music industry too has gained immensely through these sales. The total number of downloads have been clocked at a 150 million which equates to 4 million per week. The latest iPod has a mechanism that enables the storage of digital photographs as well as music. Today, Apple figures have registered total of 6 million iPod sales. That’s a fascinating growth path, which would make any marketing professional envious of replicating that kind of success.
On careful consideration though, it took very long for iPod to really drive its sales figures to the kind that it was able to achieve in the years 2003 and 2004. Until then, the figures were good, but not something to write home about. The turning point for Apple came with the introduction of the third generation iPods. This is apparent since it took almost 2 years for iPod to register its first million in sales and soon after the launch of the 3G iPod in Tokyo less than 6months later; Apple was able to register its second million in iPod sales.
Interestingly, the sales figures recorded over the 3-year period were averse to any form of competition from companies such as Creative, Dell, river etc. They sold cheaper products but not for a moment, did they encroach upon the market share that was and is still monopolised by iPod. Apple has also utilised an aggressive marketing strategy towrope in different age groups by using the draw of celebrities and song choices. For instance, in late October 2004, Apple unveiled what was called the U2 iPod. Apple conducted a promotion exercise in sync with the release of U2’s song – Vertigo.
The new iPod was designed with black casing, a red wheel and a back cover that had the engravings ofU2 with the band signatures. It is little things such as these that have made the iPod such a role model for marketing strategists. The unique blend of having a great product and infusing the right level of awareness and visibility to sell it to the masses. In the chart below, the growth path of the iPod from its inception, to the end of 2004shows how sales surged in 2003 after the release of the 3G iPods as mentioned earlier.
Not to mention, as the iPod sales soared, so did the number of downloads for music. Initially, the software iTunes needed tube bought in order to write songs from audio CD’s to the computer, following which they could be downloaded to the iPod. In 2003, Apple introduced an online music store that enabled iPod users to download music directly from the Internet. This worked in 2 ways – it provided users with an increase in choice of music that they would like to have downloaded as well as simplified the procurement of iTunes. No more dada user have to buy a software, install it onto the computer and then use it to burn music off a CD and finally onto the hard disk of the iPod. Simplifying this process for millions of users had its positives as can be seen from the graph above.
The first big jump in sales was in October 2003 when the PC version of the music store went live. This enabled far more users to be able to download songs onto their computers and diluted the monopoly of Accusers. 2 months later, in December 2003, following a lot of media hype and attention being given to the iPod and a corresponding increase in Christmas sales, more and more people began downloading songs from iTunes. And in between July 2004 and October 2004, Apple registered growth of song sales from a 100 million to a 150 million.
It must be noted that in many instances within the paper, the use of iPod and Apple is synonymous. After much deliberation, the researcher decided that it was important to approach the paper from the perspective of the parent company Apple. Any impact that the environment would have on Apple would be reflective in the iPod strategy. At the same time, in circumstances that would affect the company both positively and negatively, would subsequent effect the iPod and vice-versa.
Aims and Objectives
The aim of this paper is to understand the growth of the iPod through the years. It all began in the year 2001 and it has been a short journey to success. But how long will this be able to continue, what is the future for the product, how will it fend off competition and how will it impact Apple in the longer run. We all know that it has been apathy-breaking journey for Apple as it picks itself up from the doldrums of declining computer sales with its innovative invention that saw it spring back into the limelight. It is also the endeavour of this paper to highlight how important an impact the iPod has had on Apple alone and why can’t other company’s model the same success story.