“Stroll the corridors and the atriums on Apple Computer’s corporate campus these days and you will notice that something is missing. Gone are the posters and graphics accenting the company’s sleek personal computers. In their place, in the main lobby, is a striking, three-story-high billboard celebrating Steven P. Jobs’s brand-new billion-dollar consumer electronics business – the iPod digital MP3 music player,” John Markoff reports for The New York Times.
“In just two and a half years, Mr. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has managed to take a well-designed hand-held gadget, add software connecting it to Macintoshes and Windows-based personal computers and convince the recording industry that he has found an elegant solution for ending its nightmare of digital piracy. In doing so, he has shifted the emphasis of Apple from what made it famous – hip, even lovable computers – to what he hopes will keep it relevant and profitable in the future: products for a digital way of life,” Markoff reports.
“Sony and Microsoft, are betting that Mr. Jobs is wrong when he says, ‘It’s about the music!’ This year, both companies plan to release more expensive, hand-held combination video and audio players that their executives hope will blow the iPod away,” Markoff reports. “So will Apple eventually be overwhelmed by its bigger, better-heeled competitors? Throughout the technology world, there seems to be a simple, uniform answer to that question: Never underestimate Steve Jobs.”
“Apple is acting less like a computer company and more like brand-brandishing, multinational companies such as Nike and Virgin. The iPod’s success is also the clearest indication that Mr. Jobs, if he is to successfully revamp Apple, will ultimately win not by taking on PC rivals directly, but by changing the rules of the game,” Markoff reports. “The Apple that is starting to emerge may be a harbinger. The company’s growth may no longer be defined by its PC market share, now a declining sliver of the PC industry, but instead by Mr. Jobs’s ability to create consumer markets.”
“Apple says it developed the iPod in just six months, faster than any major product in the company’s history. The hand-held device, which contains more computing power than an early Macintosh, was put together starting in 2001 by hardware designers led by Tony Fadell, a young engineer who had worked at the Apple spinoff General Magic, at Philips Electronics and briefly at RealNetworks, led by Rob Glaser, who has developed the Rhapsody music service,” Markoff reports.
“[Fadell] would eventually build a 35-member team of engineers from Apple and other companies. Using a version of a microprocessor that powers most cellphones, the group brought the iPod together rapidly by relying on software licensed from a small start-up, Pixo, a cellphone software company founded by Paul Mercer, another former Apple engineer,” Markoff reports. “RealNetworks had been trying to develop consumer electronics products based on the company’s RealPlayer software program. Mr. Fadell, however, lasted only six weeks at the company because, his friends said, he did not see eye to eye with Mr. Glaser, the chief executive. As a result, several former Apple employees suggested, Mr. Glaser might have allowed an iPod-like hit product to slip through his fingers.”
Full article here.
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