Wednesday, 29 October 2014 10:12

iPod Classic’s pesky parts problem killed the click-wheeled player

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Apple’s click-wheel enabled iPod was once the epitome of portable music playability, but when a parts shortage loomed, Tim Cook sent the iPod to God.

Vale, iPod Classic, ye of the click-wheel interface, ye of the pocket-size jukebox that smashed the sales of all thine competitors.

RIP - Rest iPod, for you revolutionised the portable music business, you killed the Walkman, you kicked off the iTunes digital music buying revolution and you paved the way for your spiritual successors - the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Sure, the iPod brand name lives on, with the iPod shuffle, iPod nano and iPod touch, but none sport the click-wheel the iPod made so famous.

The clatter of clicks as thumbs spun in circles has ceased, and while once that wheel was like lightning greased - so fast were we able to search through huge libraries - it is a truism than in the end, all things are deceased.

Naturally, there was the question as to why Apple stopped the music. Video may have killed the radio star, but a parts shortage and an unwillingness to spend the engineering time to use other parts was the culprit, according to Tim Cook, speaking at the WSJ.D conference.

Presumably this is because Apple is spending so much time on more important issues like next year’s iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, Apple TVs and other magically integrated hardware/software solutions that are the future - not hard-disk based players with outdated circular interfaces in the face of the iPod Touch’s multi-touch glass facade.

Let’s face it - while some iPod Classic sales could easily have continued, it was simply time to call time on the device that helped Apple have the musical and profitable time of its life in the early 2000s.

Mashable quoted Tim Cook at that conference explaining to an audience member who lamented they could no longer buy a 160GB iPod Classic - or at least, not directly from Apple as brand new stock anymore - with Tim Cook replying: "We couldn’t get the parts any more, not anywhere on Earth. “It wasn’t a matter of me swinging the ax, saying 'what can I kill today'.

"The engineering work was massive, and the number of people who wanted it very small. I felt there were reasonable alternatives."

Mr Cook is, of course, correct. Sure, he could have ensured hard disk makers continued pumping out iPod Classic-sized hard drives, but in a world of flash, why keep hard drives alive?

He could have put flash storage into the Classic, but at what cost compared to a hard disk?

He could have redesigned the iPod Classic, but if he was going to do that, why not just put more flash storage into the iPod nano and call it a day?

Even putting 128GB of 256GB of storage into an updated iPod Touch would be a lot more exciting that an iPod Classic.

There must also still be a stack of iPod Classics in stores around the world, or on eBay or Gumtree or Craigslist or old Radio Shack stores.

Those who really want an iPod Classic can surely get one from somewhere out there, but it’s clear the Classic’s days were numbered, and now the jig is up.

RIP, iPod Classic. May the force be with you, and say hi to Steve up there for us!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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