How Walt Mossberg helped convince Steve Jobs to release iTunes for Windows

“Tony Fadell has had a storied career in Silicon Valley,” Dean Takahashi reports for VentureBeat. “At Apple, Steve Jobs eventually supported Fadell’s attempt to create a music device, and, later, a PC-compatible music device. And so the iPod was born. Fadell’s team created 18 versions of the iPod and helped cement Apple’s turnaround. Then he went on to lead the team that created the first three versions of the iPhone.”

[iPod] took two and a half years. Really. The first one was awesome. Every Mac owner bought it. But there weren’t many Mac owners! Then, flatline. This is where the arm-wrestling happened with Steve. I had a team making it compatible with the PC and Steve’s like, “OVER MY DEAD BODY! Never! We need to sell Macs! This is going to be why people buy Macs!” I said, “Steve, the iPod is $399. But really it’s not. Because you have to buy a Mac!” We had to give people a taste.

We had this knock down, drag out battle. We’re all sitting around and saying, “Look, Steve, we need to get this on the PC. That’s where the biggest set of people are.” And even Bill Gates goes, “Why did you decide to put it on the PC?”

I think it was Bill Schiller who said, “We gotta get this thing on the PC!” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll get the team working on it!” We let it sink in. This was like the fourth time it had come up, and he hadn’t wanted to hear it. But enough quarters had passed with nothing really happening. Like I say, it was a critical success, but not a business success.

He finally said, “Okay. But under one condition. We’re going to build these and run it by Mossberg. And if Mossberg says it’s good enough to ship, then we’ll ship it.” He wanted to divorce himself from having to make the decision. But Walt said, “Not bad. I’d ship it.” That’s how we actually shipped on the PC. — Tony Fadell

Tons more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Great advice from Uncle Walt!

12 Comments

  1. Ah, nostalgia.

    Apple did the Windows port fast too by using the QuickTime Media Layer as a porting framework. Apple always told devs “QTML is not a porting layer.” But they knew it was; they just didn’t want to support it because it was only feature-rich enough to handle the specific needs of iTunes. (Audio playback and QuickDraw were awesome, or example.)

    Apple tapped Tom Dowdy, the guy in charge of QuickTime’s cross-platform ports, particular QuickTime for Windows, to lead the iTunes engineering team to make iTunes cross-platform. Consequently, iTunes was one of the last Apple apps (besides Final Cut Pro, and Shake, which Apple finally had to drop rather than port to Cocoa) to still be on Carbon, because the QTML porting layer was based on Carbon.

    When Tom Dowdy died in February 2008, it really set the iTunes team back, both on Mac and on Windows, since the app used the same code base for both, and Tom was the only guy who really grokked all of the complexity of the underlying requirements and limitations.

  2. “The first one was awesome.”

    Couldn’t agree more. I purchased and still have the original iPod. The moment I held it I realized this was going to change the world. That day I bought a good chunk of AAPL shares. One of my best decision ever. 😄

    1. I also bought the original and I couldn’t believe how awesome it was. I still have mine. Replaced the battery last summer and it works fine but 5GB isn’t large enough to hold any of my playlists anymore so I have little use for it.

  3. I think the title’s wrong. This is about the release of the iPod for Windows, not iTunes. Apple didn’t put out iTunes for Windows until after the music store was up and running. The first iPod for Windows came with third-party software to sync your PC music library to the iPod.

    ——RM

  4. All I ever read about iTunes for Windows is users saying it’s a slow and bloated mess and they really don’t like it at all. I’ve used it in a virtual Windows environment and it doesn’t seem all that bad, but I’ve only had to manage about 12,000 song files, so maybe that isn’t much compared to what some people have. I’ve heard of people having 4X that amount so it’s possible it’s just too unwieldy when the size grows to those proportions. Too bad Microsoft didn’t make Windows Media Player version for the Mac so users would have a choice.

  5. Didn’t the early iPods run with Musicmatch on Windows? I bought my first iPod when I was still running a Dell and since then I’ve had a powerbook, a Mac Mini, two iMacs, a MacBook Air for my mother, numerous other iPods, 4 iPhones, and have converted my office to Mac. The iPod was a real gateway product.

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