There is rapid product development, then there is Apple-rapid product development. Former Apple SVP Tony Fadell says the development of Apple’s original iPod took less than ten months to go from concept to shipping product.
The first-generation iPod was an industry-shaking feat of design and engineering, but we’ve all hear few details of the product’s inception and development. Fadell, who is considered to be the “father of the iPod,” was the SVP for Apple’s iPod division, and he says the timeline for the iPod’s creation was an exceptionally short one, especially by modern standards.
A tweet from Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, who was researching the iPod, says Fadell filled him in on an overview of events that took place in 2001, the year the iPod hit shelves. Fadell says he was initially contacted by Apple in the first week of January, had the first meeting about the project two weeks later, and started related work on the product as a consultant during the fourth week.
I asked Tony Fadell about the iPod timeline for my fast project page. Summary: 😯. pic.twitter.com/mf0CfbAEtB
— Patrick Collison (@patrickc) January 12, 2020
In that fourth week, Fadell was tasked with investigating “what is possible?” for the project, which had the codename of “P68 Dulcimer.” Fadell says “there was no team, prototype, designs, nothing,” and that a pitch was made to Steve Jobs in the third week of March, which resulted in the green-lighting of the project.
By the second week of April, Fadell was a full-time Apple employee, finding a contract manufacturer for the product in Asia the following week. The first employee was added to the team in the second week of May. The iPod debuted in the fourth week of October, shipping to consumers during the first week of November.
The ten-month turnaround for the original iPod stands in sharp contrast to today’s Apple, where the development of a product these days can run form two to three years.
Apple released the first iPhone about 2.5 years after beginning the touch-screen phone project in earnest, (which doesn’t count a couple of years of exploration and R&D before it).
Apple’s development of the iPad mini began in early 2011, shipping in November 2012. The Apple Watch project began gearing up in mid-2012 and was announced in September 2014, shipping in April 2015.