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‘Good for the Soul’

With iPod’s fifth birthday around the corner, Steve Jobs discusses the MP3 player’s design, the cool factor and the impact on how we listen to music.

Holistic: Jobs at an Apple media event last month
Paul Sakuma / AP
Holistic: Jobs at an Apple media event last month
iPod Nation

Oct. 15, 2006: NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy

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By Steven Levy
Updated: 4:54 p.m. ET Oct. 16, 2006

Oct. 15, 2006 - Oct. 23 marks the fifth anniversary of Apple's iPod. CEO Steve Jobs reflected with NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy (author of "The Perfect Thing," a book about the iPod out this month) about the past, present and future of the device that changed Apple—and the world.

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NEWSWEEK: During the iPod's development process did you get a sense of how big it would become?
Steve Jobs: The way you can tell that you're onto something interesting is if everybody who knows about the project wants one themselves, if they can't wait to go out and open up their own wallets to buy one. That was clearly the case with the iPod. Everybody on the team wanted one.

Other companies had already tried to make a hard disk drive music player. Why did Apple get it right?
We had the hardware expertise, the industrial design expertise and the software expertise, including iTunes. One of the biggest insights we have was that we decided not to try to manage your music library on the iPod, but to manage it in iTunes. Other companies tried to do everything on the device itself and made it so complicated that it was useless.

What was the design lesson of the iPod?
Look at the design of a lot of consumer products—they're really complicated surfaces. We tried make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don't put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.

Some people say that iPod might lose its cachet because it's too popular—how can it be cool when Dick Cheney and Queen Elizabeth have one?
That's like saying you don't want to kiss your lover's lips because everyone has lips. It doesn't make any sense. We don't strive to appear cool. We just try to make the best products we can. And if they are cool, well, that's great.

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