A great music buff, Steve had been a huge fan of Sony’s Walkman portable music player. But Sony didn’t keep up with advances that new technology was making available. Steve’s key people were doing a vastly better job of staying abreast. Software wizard Ruby Rubinstein learned of a tiny hard drive Toshiba had developed but hadn’t found any customers for; hardly bigger than one-inch long, it could hold five gigabytes of data—a major technological breakthrough that would allow storing a thousand songs. In short order, Apple had an exclusive contract to buy the Toshiba drives.
With the smaller batteries that were becoming available, Apple would be able to make a very small unit that could keep playing for as long as 10 hours.
And the company already had its own data-transfer technology, Firewire, which would allow the player to download a ton of songs very quickly.
Put those elements together, and it’s little wonder that Steve decided they added up to the ingredients of the first breakaway product under his leadership. Add a stunningly designed product package, and you have the iPod. It was a shining example of what Steve liked to call the company’s “core strength.” It was, as well, a shining example of how a complex device could be made easy for the user to understand and master. Nobody who saw it was surprised that the iPod was a worldwide hit from the day it was introduced. But more than that, it was the first evidence of the new Apple: entering a product ...