While joining Apple, the world's most valuable company may seem obvious today, 2001 was different. That's when CEO Steve Jobs asked -- not asked -- Tony Fadell to join the company to create a groundbreaking device. But the man who would later invent the iPod was at first hesitant about the idea.
"I thought, wow, wow," Fadell told me in a Zoom interview on Oct. 23 to mark the 20th anniversary of the iPod."You had to be a complete lunatic to work at Apple back then."
In early 2001, while Fadell was developing his MP3 player, Apple hired him as a consultant to design different prototypes for digital music players to complement apple's newly released iTunes software. He made an impression on Jobs."We're building it, and now you're going to build it with us," Fadell recalled Jobs saying.
Fadell eventually agreed, of course, and led the team that built one of the most important products in Apple's history -- one that is still available (albeit in a very different form) on apple's website. The iPod turned a company with only a small share of sales and personal computers into a consumer electronics giant. It also revolutionized the digital music industry, decimating the CD and turning Apple's iconic white MP3 player and ubiquitous white headphones into a status symbol.
Most importantly, the early work on the iPod paved the way for Apple's next breakthrough product, the iPhone.The iPhone has transformed almost every aspect of our lives and the way we interact with mobile devices, turning Apple (AAPL) into the world's most valuable company. Apple is currently valued at $2.42 trillion.
Fadell followed up the success of the iPod with Nest Labs, a maker of smart home products (later acquired by Google). He told me about the "madness" of the iPod's early days, why he thought it would succeed, and how it had stood the test of time. This is his story.
Apple declined to add anything to the story.
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