Tony Fadell had an idea. In fact, he was convinced it was such a good idea that he quit his job designing handheld computing devices at Philips to shop it around. Fadell’s idea—to take an MP3 player and build a Napster-type music sale service to complement it—was turned down by several companies until Apple Computer saw the future in Fadell’s idea. Familiar with PortalPlayer’s prototype MP3 designs, including one about the size of a cigarette pack, Fadell brought the company on board to develop what would become the iPod. “When Apple came to the table, we dropped all our other customers,” says Ben Knauss, former senior manager at PortalPlayer. Critical to the iPod’s success was the personal involvement of Apple’s Steve Jobs.

“The interesting thing about the iPod, is that since it started, it had 100 percent of Steve Jobs’ time,” says Knauss. “Not many projects get that. He was heavily involved in every single aspect of the project… They’d have meetings and Steve would be horribly offended he couldn’t get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button. We’d get orders: ‘Steve doesn’t think it’s loud enough, the sharps aren’t sharp enough, or the menu’s not coming up fast enough.’” Idiosyncratic, perhaps—but you can’t argue with success.

Wired 21 Jul 2004