A new iPod is seen on display at Apple's new iTunes Music Store May 8, 2003 inside the Apple Store in Emeryville, California.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images
By Ian Salisbury
October 25, 2016

When Apple released its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, investors’ attention immediately focused on the company’s 9% sales decline and more optimistic forecast for the holiday quarter.

One thing that was essentially absent from the conversation was Apple’s most revolutionary product, the device that turned it from an also-ran computer maker into the world’s most valuable company. It’s especially worthy of note because the iPod, the digital music player which heralded a whole new category of consumer product, celebrated its 15th birthday on Sunday.

What happened to the iconic iPod? It’s largely been eclipsed by the more popular iPhone, which includes its own music player, making the iPod basically obsolete. Apple still offers the iPod, but after the annual sales shrank to less than $2.5 billion in 2014, the Cupertino, Calif., company stopped bothering to include iPod sales figures in its quarterly reports to investors.


What’s striking is just how short a time span 15 years is for a product to go from world-changing to obsolete. And indeed, that lightning-fast product life-cycle is still a problem for Apple. With the iPhone nearing its own 10th anniversary, newer Apple products like the iPad and Apple Watch haven’t proved blockbusters on the same scale. Indeed on Tuesday, with millions of consumers already owning an iPhone or a competitor’s imitation, Apple reported its annual decline in revenue and profit since 2001, the year the iPod hit the market.


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