The news: That Apple discontinued its iPod brand after 21 years is not surprising given that the iPhone and AirPods have long replaced the music player—but a lot of credit goes to the product category that set Apple on its way to dominate consumer electronics.
Scroll back: Before the iPod was launched in 2001, Apple made desktops and laptops and owned a measly 2.3% of the global PC market. There was a burgeoning yet fragmented MP3 player segment, but the iPod was initially dismissed as an overpriced accessory exclusive to Mac users. What changed?
Scroll forward: Apple’s mix of savvy marketing, product design, and its retail store user experience were honed during the iPod’s heyday. In context, the iPod owned 76% share of the US MP3 player market at its peak.
This formula remained a key component in the transition to iPhone and Apple’s subsequent status as most valuable company, with a near $3 trillion valuation, just as Apple looks to the next product category that could someday replace the iPhone.