Ben Szymanski

Software Engineer • 🇺🇸 & 🐊

We all know about the infamous Thread 500 _forum thread that MacRumors has so lovingly preserved. Thread 500 documents the mostly skeptical reactions of Mac fans about the practicality of the then just-released iPod, all the way back in October 2001. It usually gets linked to anytime Apple releases a new product or service that people aren't convinced will be successful. The fanboys like to link to Thread 500 and say, "...see how everyone was shitting on the iPod when it came out and how successful it became?"

The simplicity of this argument is so annoying though. Let''s unpack this.


Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where's the Newton?!

- WeezerX80

As it turns out WeezerX80 was thinking the same thing Steve Jobs and team were, around the same time. Initial research into touch-based UI/the iPad began around this same time in response to Microsoft's first crack at tablet computers.

Sounds very revolutionary to me. hey - heres an idea Apple - rather than enter the world of gimmicks and toys, why dont you spend a little more time sorting out your pathetically expensive and crap server line up? or are you really aiming to become a glorified consumer gimmicks firm?

- Pants

'The reality is that Apple's server lineup really was crap at the time. Apple must have thought so too, because just seven months later, they released the first rack-mount server hardware, Xserve. Xserve was loved by many, along with the Server Admin and Workgroup Manager applications. There were some golden years, but that started to wind down, consequentially when Apple DID become a full-time consumer gimmicks firm. macOS X 10.6 Server was the last stand-alone server OS release they did, changing strategies with OS X 10.7 where they released a shoddy application on the Mac App Store named

Don't get me wrong, was cool for hobbyists, like me. But it just wasn't a hit with enterprise users because of how flaky it ended up being in usage. is now practically dead, though, and with it, Apple's server strategy.

$399.00 - Ouch!!!

OH NO! Just checked Apple Store - they want $399.00 for this thing...Ouch!!!

- tatnasty

Seems like some things never change. I said the same thing when I bought an iPhone XS last year - Ouch!

You're all a bunch of loony bitches

We live in the YEAR 2001... not 6000 years from now when ridiculously awsome technology will exist. No other mp3 player has a harddrive like this... 5gigs... yeah. A rio of the same size offers 64megs. Jesum Crow, get over your moping.. .this is revolutionary.... plus it''s just the beggining. This device litterally bests anything on the market by about 100x


I'll give this one to him. 5 GB was a huge amount of storage at the time, although flash storage eventually conquered HD MP3 players. For comparison, the iBook G3 of that time came with just 15 GB of storage.

No * Way

All that hype for an MP3 player? Break-thru digital device? The Reality Distiortion Field™ is starting to warp Steve's mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.

-Nobody Special

This is the argument they all like to cite. The fanboys say that the iPod wasn't good at first, and it took time to develop the whole experience into something polished. IDK about that. Really, what changed between 2001 and when the first iPhone was released six years later in 2007? Not much. It had the same workflow. Import music into iTunes, sync via cable, and go. The iTunes music store was a big advancement that made it much easier to acquire music and build your collection. But still, you were syncing that stuff over a cable the entire time.

Here's where the meat of my take is. The thing that made the iPod a success was not the refinements they made (it mostly stayed the same), but the availability of iTunes on Windows. That's when the iPod took off. And it wouldn't be until two years later, in 2003, that iTunes would show up. If you're in 2001, and you're looking at this MP3 player that's pretty expensive (even if impressive), but can only be bought/used by the installed Mac user base, it's pretty reasonable to think this product wasn't going to be a hit. I doubt anyone imagined that Apple would ever port iTunes to Windows, either. Maybe Apple even surprised itself.

iTunes for windows advert

Well I want one, but...

I think it''s just that bit too pricey. (Cube anyone...).

$299. Then Apple would be in business...

- TheSaint

The struggle is real. We still feel this way today about Apple products. See also: HomePod.

I want one right the hell NOW!

This thing's too cool. It makes my Rio 500 (recently upgraded to hold 128 MB of songs) look pathetic. It's beautiful. It looks too easy to use. It has all sorts of cool features that I will never live without again. This is a home run, and y'all who keep complaining its not a $200 Newton device, buy a Visor. They can play MP3s, by the way, but they're still stuck in the 21st century compared to the iPod.

Now where did I put that credit card...

- JereIC

Some enthusiasm.

...sorry apple, yer cool styling and faster transfer rate only count for so much

btw... for $100 bucks more you can buy an imac. Better bring that price down or you wont sell any of these babies

- mikedman

It's kind of funny that for $100 more than an iPhone XS today, you can buy an iMac.

myself, i was looking for a PDA, one for the rest of us, personally the palms and PocketPCS are getting irrititing... im putting all my money on that being the next digital device. and for sure...

- Perdue CS

Astute! I hope Purdue CS made some good cash on his bet!

... 2. A bad fit. This product is outside Apple's core competancy - computing devices.

When many are calling for a pda, they release an MP3 player.

3 Without a future. This Christmas you will see mp3 players be commoditized. Meaning that the players from Korea will be way less expensive tha iPod. The real money is in DRM and distribution (ala Real Musicnet). If Apple were smart they would be focusing on high gross revenue from services rather than a playback device.

- Meetoo

This is juicy. We all know what happened here. The iTunes Music Store was rolled out in 2003, which was HUGE and even ended up being so successful that it also became the infrastructure for the AppStore. Today Apple is pivoting HARD towards services, and they''re late to the game - maybe 18 years late, as Meetoo points out. Even though Apple Music has more active users than Spotify, Spotify still beat them to the punch. iCloud just can't compare to what Google and even Microsoft are putting out in terms of services (reliability, speed).

Apple is selling a bunch of overpriced things like the TiBook that won't be resellable for more than $1300 in less than 6 month because it is not upgredable.

- mymemory

mymemory, my dude... the worst is yet to come.

Doesn't a Mac with a CDR undermine the need for most of this? All that's left is the number of songs you can play and the ability to listen to all of them with headphones anywhere. Do I really need ALL my songs ALL the time?

uhm, no.

Won''t last. Another Cube.

- Guest

Even though, as I wrote above, the original market for the iPod was INCREDIBLY limited, I do have to disagree here with Guest. The utility of portable audio (ex: walkmans), was pretty well known. Sorry dude but you're being pretty anacrhonistic here.

I'm out...

iPod... looks very cool, lots of storage, and some interesting new battery technology... now that could set the stage for other more interesting devices, but what a Huge pricetag! Lucky for me, I only own an iBook with USB. I don't even have to think about it - come to think of it neither do LOTS of other Mac owners, and yer average wintel folks. Yep a huge number of computer owners and music lovers won't have to lose any sleep tonight. The only thing breakthrough may be the narrowness of this nich market.

- pdcorlis

See what I''m saying? The market for an iPod in 2001 was incredibly limited, and they knew it, even back then. It wasn't until you could sync it to a Windows box that it took off.

Fatal Flaw...

Am I the only one who sees a fatal flaw with this "consumer" device... IT'S MAC-ONLY! For Apple to move a ton of these things off the shelf, it would have to also work well with PCs. Why limit yourself to selling a dedicated MP3 device to 5% of the PC market, when you could just as easily make it work with PCs and open yourself up to 100% of the PC market? ... In its current incarnation, the iPod will fail because it's being sold into a relatively small market, and due to its limited functionality and high price. It's another Cube, and I can't understand why it's so plainly obvious to us but not to Apple.

- sonnys

What he said. ^^^

my money is on ipod being windows compatible by launch. It just doesn't economically make sense to me otherwise that apple would launch into a limited market...

this raises the possibility of itunes becoming windows compatible as well. Following in Quicktime's footsteps. Why not? er... besides the rather formidable competition on that side of the fence. And that it doesn't help sell macs. Ok, I don''t understand.

- bgreel

Your prediction didn't exactly come to pass, bgreel, but I hear you!

.... DESIGN .... this thing is so damn beautiful, that i'm already thinking about wanting one (not buying, wanting one!) ... this is almost a sexual thing .. and i'm sure that the marketing campaign will be great to watch on TV ...

same was with the TiBook ... i know so many windoze users that bought the TiBook just for the looks of it ... like moths blinded by light .. zzztap

- evanmarx

The cool ID (industrial design) really is what set the iPod apart and above it's competitors.

Anyway, what can you really expect from the man that killed the Newton because it was "without a keyboard" (cfr Jobs himself words, ca Feb. 1998).

- Enviro

This is interesting if true. I've never read this before.

I ordered one at 11:02pdt. Why? Well, its does everything all in one package. Lets say you are going on a trip. Need to some tunes. Grab the iPod.

- cooter

cooter, you are a pinoneer and I appreciate your brazeness to just buy the damn thing instead of obsessing over it.

Well. There's no doubt that the PC market is huge, so I think Jobs has the right idea. To get the product to PC users who like apple's industrial design (aka M.E.S. - Mac Envy Syndrome).

I heard that PC compatibility isn't planned untill next year, but I hope Jobs gets it out before Christmas. (For his sake and for mine)

Either way, I can't wait untill the iPod comes to the PC world.

The iPod: Smaller, faster, better.

- oh no, it''s that PC guy


i won't try to second guess steve jobs because he is still at apple and doing a decent soon as things look bad, he's out like emilio was, this is business and he knows it as well as the board at apple


Yeah, so here's the thing, apparently the board won't push out Cook, who has been doing a markably worse job at pushing for product innovation. We just got an Apple credit card and a bunch of higher-than-competitor priced rental services.

Cost of 5gig drive that small retail = $399


- arn


Okay. I think we''ve covered this topic enough to stop here.

The iPod was a great product. Between the fast FireWire syncing, the slick industrial design and portable-ness of it and the large hard drive, it was definitely ahead of the competition. But it makes absolutely no sense to disparage the commentators of the infamous Thread 500 as being shortsighted idiots. A lot of the takes in that thread make good sense in the context of October 2001. And now that I finally have this article written, I am going to post it over and over and over again any time someone brings this up.

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