Oct 22, 2021 2 mins, 50 secs
For the 20th anniversary of the iPod, Tony Fadell, who invented Apple's iconic music player, reminisces about its creation in an interview with CNET.

That's when CEO Steve Jobs demanded — not asked — that Tony Fadell join the company to create a groundbreaking device.

In early 2001 while he was developing his own MP3 player, Fadell was tapped as a consultant by Apple, who asked him to come up with different prototypes for a digital music player that would work with the company's just announced iTunes software.

"We're building this, and you're now going to join us to build it," Fadell recalled Jobs saying. .

When Apple executive Jon Rubinstein, who had been tasked with creating a music player, came knocking in early 2001, Fadell was already working on his own startup, Fuse Systems, with the goal of creating a mainstream MP3 player.

Apple veteran Stan Ng had worked with Fadell to prepare a stack of papers for the presentation — this was before the days of slideshows — and prepared him for both Jobs and his reputation for an explosive temper.

"Those stories were ingrained in my brain, burned into my brain, so I'm going in nervous," Fadell said. .

"Here's what I want to do," Fadell recalled Jobs saying, hijacking the conversation and forcing them to dive right in. .

"Steve picked it up and he's like, 'we're building this and you're now going to join us to build it,' and I was like 'whoa whoa,'" Fadell said. .

After a few weeks of negotiations with Jobs, Fadell joined Apple in April 2001 and assembled a team made up of Fuze and General Magic employees to put together what would become the iPod.

It's noteworthy that Fadell, and not famed Apple designer Jony Ive, came up with the design of the iPod, going back to that original pitch to Jobs.

Steve Jobs introducing the original iPod (which wasn't 100% done yet). 

That may have been Fadell being a bit melodramatic — Apple reportedly sold 125,000 units in that initial holiday stretch — but those sales weren't going to turn the company around

The willingness to keep going was the critical part of a heart-to-heart conversation Fadell had with Jobs that convinced him to join the company

Jobs told Fadell he was going to throw marketing dollars at the iPod, pulling resources from its core Mac business

And even though sales of the original iPod and the follow-up version didn't light any fires, Jobs followed through. 

Fadell said he and Jobs continually pushed each other to take each version further, and he noted that Apple had become the largest consumer of NAND flash memory when the iPod Nano came out. 

The iPod also got another boost in April 2003, when Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, giving people a way to buy music from a catalog of 200,000 digital songs rather than having to rip their own CDs. 

Along the way, Apple showed off its marketing prowess and created iconic ads  (remember the iPod silhouette commercials?) to pitch the music and its player

By 2007, a little more than five years after that original launch, Apple sold its 100 millionth iPod

By 2005, Fadell said Apple was already looking at the competitive threat of cellphones, which started packing in music players and cameras

Apple still sells an iPod — a $199 iPod Touch that looks more like an iPhone than that original music player — which stands as a testament to its longevity. 

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