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A New Design Approach For Apple With iPod

The Apple iPod For Windows Begins A New Legacy
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Apple has become famous for many of its previous products' unique and trendy designs. With the iPod, Apple used a new design approach that took advantage of outside design and engineering talent. PortalPlayer developed the reference design for iPod. PortalPlayer was founded in 1999 and includes a group of high profile Silicon Valley executives and investors, including renowned venture capitalist Gordon Campbell.

PortalPlayer had already developed a reference base platform for a variety of audio devices. Apple's selection of PortalPlayer is rumored to be because it provided excellent sound quality over other currently available solutions. One of the design goals for iPod was to build a device primarily from off-the-shelf components, while providing the highest quality of sound available.

From the box right down the clip that is used to contain the Firewire cable when it is not in use, Apple was conscientious about the details of the iPod. We have been looking at products for some time, and not often does one come along that is this far ahead of the curve. Apple was firing on all cylinders with the design of the iPod.

Much of the specifics that surround the design and construction of the iPod are covered in top-secret and restrictive non-disclosure agreements, which prohibit many of the key players in the development of iPod from speaking publicly about the iPod project. However, the end result speaks for itself: Apple had an uncanny vision for the design and form factor that are the iPod.

The design of the iPod uses the following: a hard drive from Toshiba; a lithium polymer battery from Sony; a dedicated MP3 decoder and controller chip from PortalPlayer; a Wolfson Microelectronics Ltd. stereo digital-to-analog converter; a flash memory chip from Sharp Electronics Corp.; a Texas Instruments 1394 firewire interface controller; and a power management and battery charging IC from Linear Technologies Inc. It is interesting that Apple did not elect to use an ASIC or other custom chip to integrate all the functions it needed onto one piece of silicon, which might have saved space and battery life. Due to the NDAs that are in place, we can only guess why Apple chose this route. One possible reason is that the chip integration would go against the design philosophy of using primarily off-the-shelf components.

When looking at the overall cost of the components, it is obvious that the hard drive is 50% of Apple's total cost for the iPod. While sales figures on the iPod are a bit sketchy, it has been reported that Apple sold more than 125,000 in the fourth quarter of 2001, and with the addition of the new iPod for Windows, they are well on their way to doubling that number, and may have already done so.

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