People Are Terrible With Counter-Factuals

Here’s an interesting piece: “10 Years Into the iPod Revolution”. I tend to get really irritated with this kind of attribution. My instinct here is to say: it would have happened anyway.

They dig up an interesting review of the original iPod:

People used to argue whether the trend was toward an all-in-one gadget that does everything as opposed to a collection of specialized gadgets. If I’m right about the iPod, both sides of this argument are correct; people will use one comprehensive iPod-like storage and connectivity unit in combination with every specialized peripheral you can think of. As before, something designed for digital music will spread across other areas of technology. Descendants of the iPod MP3 player will replace the PC as the hub of your digital life.

You could look at that last sentence and say: “OMG, he gets it. Apple was destined to make the ipad”. But you’d be skipping over some pretty important information.

First, the ipod’s descendents have hardly become the hub of anything. iCloud is making a play for this, but only within the Apple walled garden. We shall see whether this works.

For another, the iPod was simply the best HIGH-END mp3 player out there. There was always going to be a high-end mp3 player and Apple just crushed that market. Without them, there would have been another and maybe we’d be talking about that one instead.

My first iPod was the shuffle, which was, as far as I can tell, the first real mainstream product Apple ever made. Then Apple found its home in the cell phone market and its exploitation of gigantic personal discount rates. Presto: expensive products seem cheap.

Convergence between mp3 players and cell phones was always inevitable. Apple was the exception, I think, in that no other mp3 player manufacturer made the leap to phones. In every other case, the leap was for phone makers to just add mp3 functionality.

I don’t want any of this to suggest that Apple’s innovation machine wasn’t (isn’t) awesome. That’d be stupid. But to say that they’re more than, say, 10% better than the next rival is overdoing it.

Today’s worst mp3 players are a thousand times better than the original ipod. Apple’s cleverness buys it a bit of time, but that’s all.

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