The New York Times has published an in-depth article on Appleis iconic iPod, just in time for the deviceis second birthday. The article delves into the history and development of the popular MP3 player, and attempts to de-mystify the design sensibilities and internal workings of the sleek little device. From the article:
Two years ago this month, Apple Computer released a small, sleek-looking device it called the iPod. A digital music player, it weighed just 6.5 ounces and held about 1,000 songs.
Of course, as anyone who knows the basic outline of Appleis history is aware, there is no guarantee that todayis innovation leader will not be copycatted and undersold into tomorrowis niche player. Appleis recent and highly publicized move to make the iPod and its related software, iTunes, available to users of Windows-based computers is widely seen as a sign that the company is trying to avoid that fate this time around. But it may happen anyway. The history of innovation is the history of innovation being imitated, iterated and often overtaken.
So you can say that the iPod is innovative, but itis harder to nail down whether the key is whatis inside it, the external appearance or even the way these work together. One approach is to peel your way through the thing, layer by layer.
Actually, Jobs seemed a little annoyed. Looking back at my notes, I found it remarkable how many of his answers begin with some variation of "No," as if my questions were out of sync with what he wanted to say. (Before I could finish a question about the significance of Appleis pitching a product to Windows users, for instance, he corrected me: "Weire not pitching the Windows user. Weire pitching the music lover.") After half an hour of this, my inquiries really did start to fall apart, so I didnit expect much when I resorted to asking, in so many words, whether he thinks consciously about innovation.
"No," he said, peevishly. "We consciously think about making great products. We donit think, iLetis be innovative!i" He waved his hands for effect. "iLetis take a class! Here are the five rules of innovation, letis put them up all over the company!"i
Well, I said defensively, there are people who do just that.
"Of course they do." I felt his annoyance shift elsewhere. "And itis like . . . somebody whois not cool trying to be cool. Itis painful to watch. You know what I mean?" He looked at me for a while, and I started to think he was trying to tell me something. Then he said, "Itis like . . . watching Michael Dell try to dance." The P.R. minder guffawed. "Painful," Jobs summarized.
You can read the full article at The New York Times Web site.