iPod Cranks the Tunes For Deaf Jobs, Former Consultant Claims

Appleis iPod portable music player has a higher level of volume than most music players because Apple CEO Steve Jobs is hard of hearing, a former consultant to the company has alleged in a monthly magazine. The exclusive interview also gives deep insight into how the iPod became a success.

Ben Knauss, a former senior manager at PortalPlayer, which helped Apple design and produce the popular device, claimed Mr. Jobs demanded the iPod volume level be louder because he was partly deaf.

"They drove the sound up so he could hear it," Knauss told Wired, magazine. The magazine labeled Mr. Jobsi requests as "sometimes idiosyncratic".

Mr. Knauss claimed the idea of the iPod was dreamt up by hardware expert Tony Fadell, who is now senior director of the iPod and special projects group at Apple. Mr. Knauss alleged Apple hired Mr. Fadell in early 2001 and assigned him a team of about 30 industrial design people. Mr. Knauss said at one of the first meetings with PortalPlayer, Mr. Fadell said, "This is the project thatis going to remold Apple and 10 years from now, itis going to be a music business, not a computer business."

Mr. Knauss said PortalPlayer was working with a number of companies initially on small, portable music players, including IBM, but that in the end it chose to work with Apple. For eight months, the companyis 200 employees in the U.S. and 80 engineers in India worked exclusively on the iPod, Mr. Knauss said.

Mr. Knauss allegeds Mr. Jobs was very hands on with the iPod design project, demanding the device be fast and easy to his specifications.

"Theyid have meetings and Steve would be horribly offended he couldnit get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button," Mr. Knauss said. "Weid get orders: iSteve doesnit think itis loud enough, the sharps arenit sharp enough, or the menuis not coming up fast enough.i Every day there were comments from Steve saying where it needed to be."

Originally there were no demands to add FairPlay, Appleis copy-protection technology, Mr. Knauss noted, and that initially the belief was digital rights management (DRM) would hurt sales. It was only when Apple introduced its online music store did the company start using DRM.

Mr. Knauss said the iPod project was nearly killed close to completion when it was apparent the device only had a three-hour battery life. Eventually the problems were fixed, he said, and Apple bought a majority stake in PortalPlayer.

Mr. Knauss worked at PortalPlayer until near the end of development of the product, but quit before its release because he was not confident it would succeed. He now contracts for Microsoft as a senior manager.