The iPod is a hard-drive-based music player from Apple Computer that can play MP3s, WAV, AAC and AIFF files. In addition to playing music, iPods may be used as an external hard drive. iPods are distinguished by their small size, simple user interface based on a central scroll wheel, and fast FireWire connection capable of 400 Mbit/s data transfers. As of January 2004, the iPod was the most popular digital music player in the United States, having over 50% of the market.

First announced in October 2001, the iPod was originally available with a 5GB hard drive. A 10GB version was announced in March 2002, and a 20GB version in July. On April 28, 2003, Steve Jobs introduced an "ultrathin" iPod series, which introduced a non-mechanical touch-sensitive scroll wheel and other upgrades. These were originally sold in 10, 15, and 30 GB versions. In September 2003 the 15 and 30GB versions were replaced by 10, 20 and 40GB versions, and then 15, 20, and 40 GB versions by January 2004. In January 2004 Apple introduced a smaller version, the iPod mini, with 4 GB of storage, while also increasing the storage of the "low-end" version from 10 to 15GB.

Firmware upgrades have added some PDA functions. Some of the iPod software was developed by Pixo, a company founded by two of the developers that had worked on the Apple Newton, a Personal Digital Assistant produced by Apple Computer.

The iPod was originally only compatible with Macintosh computers, but as of mid-2002, Apple Computer has also begun selling a Windows version, formatted to FAT32 instead of HFS+. Third-party products also exist to allow the use of Mac-formatted iPods with Windows computers.

Unlike former products, there is no distinction between Mac and Windows versions; one product can be connected to either a Mac or a Windows PC. In the latter case, the user needs to buy an extra USB2 cable or add a firewire port, as this is the connection the iPod uses and is standard on Macs but somewhat uncommon in Windows PCs.

iTunes is used to manage files on the iPod when connected to a Mac or Windows PC. Previously, Musicmatch or ephPod was used to manage files on the iPod when connected to a Windows PC. Newer iPod accessories include a memory card reader and a voice recording module, both manufactured by Belkin and officially licensed by Apple Computer.

In December 2003, film-makers and Apple enthusiasts The Neistat Brothers produced a movie highlighting that the battery in their early-model iPod would now only hold a small amount of charge, and distributed it over the internet. Shortly following this, though not necessarily in response to it, Apple Computer introduced a battery replacement scheme and offered users the option to extend the warranty of their iPods.

On January 8, 2004, Hewlett-Packard announced that they would license the iPod from Apple to create an HP-branded MP3 player. The following day, Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO, Carly Fiorina unveiled the new, blue iPod-based device at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show.

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