TenYears: Unexpected Success Stories

ten-yearsIt’s almost January 1st, 2010 and we’ve been mulling over our favorites of 2009 – and the previous decade. Here we present another installment in our “Of the Decade” lists.

Winner: Apple iPod and the iTunes Store

Ipod_1GNo matter how you feel about Apple products, there’s no denying that the original iPod – released in October 2001 – made a huge impact on the digital music world.

Before the iPod, MP3 players were clunky, had atrocious interfaces, and awful battery life. Geeks like us had the early models from Archos and Diamond but you’d never see a common luddite carrying one around. Then came this stark white, minimalist music player with – GASP! – a wheel? And a program called iTunes that made it easy to transfer music?

Add to that 10-hour battery life, capacities of 5GB or 10GB, and an interface that was easy enough for regular people to use, and you’ve got the beginning of the end for CDs.

Then consider the iTunes Store, which hit the scene in 2003. A digital music store that ONLY worked with the iPod and charged people 99 cents per DRM-encrypted song. Guess what? People bought into it because it was easy, quick, and well organized. Fast forward to the end of the century and iTunes makes up “70% of worldwide online digital music sales” and is currently the largest music retailer in the world.

Runners Up

xbox Microsoft’s Console Gaming Initiative

Console gaming really took off in the 80’s with Nintendo and Sega – two Japanese companies. Then a third Japanese company, Sony, entered the fray and upped the ante with the PlayStation. Sega eventually died off, its last gasp being the Saturn console, discontinued in 1999. So which Japanese company would come along to fill the void left by Sega?

Microsoft? Whaaaa?

The first Xbox console weighed 700 pounds, ran hot and loud, and featured a controller the size of a Buick. But it was basically a computer beefed up to play video games – Pentium III CPU, NVIDIA graphics, and a hard drive (which hadn’t been done before). The games looked gorgeous and were, perhaps more importantly, fun. Microsoft, a company known for making operating systems, came out swinging and secured its spot in the gaming community.

cg Blogging

Blogging is not a tangible product, no. But the fact that most of us here at CrunchGear make a full living from a concept that started out as little more than online diaries written by crazy people is, in and of itself, crazy. And while blogging didn’t start in this decade, it sure took off in this decade.

We don’t need to get into the whole mainstream journalism versus blogging debate, except to say that the line between mainstream journalism and blogging keeps getting blurrier all the time.

flip Simpler Devices

You’d think that in an advanced society like ours, as technology gets faster, more powerful, and more complicated that we, in turn, would adapt to being able to use more complicated interfaces and features. Instead, we’ve seen a return to simplicity. The iPhone has one main button, Flip camcorders plug right into your computer, and netbooks offer little more than casual web browsing and word processing.

And while you can find more fully featured devices than the Flip, the iPhone, and netbooks for far less money, casual consumers snatch these things up in droves if not for the very fact that they’re actually easy to use.

The simplicity movement started off slowly in the beginning of the decade, but it’s sure ramping up to full speed nowadays. In the future, expect a nice blend of both features and simplicity with less of a tradeoff between the two.

Our Take

Devin: The Wii. With that name? I still can’t believe how many consoles Nintendo has sold. It’s not that there aren’t good games, but I just never thought it would pick up the way it has. Good for them, though.

Greg: Me as a blogger. Does that count? No? Alright. I’ll go with the Halo series. It gets announced at Macworld of all places, then gets bought by friggin’ Microsoft. Mind you, this is all happening in 2000, when the only games Microsoft was known for were Solitaire and Flight Simulator.

Matt: Anyone remember the Moto RAZR? Of course you do because sometime within the last 10 years, every single person on Earth owned one. I still have the one I paid $500 for somewhere in a junk drawer. But I doubt anyone ever saw the still-ultra thin clamshell becoming just so popular. I have $10 that says that you know five people that are still using one.

Nicholas: I’m going to be lazy and say I largely agree with this list. I think I voted for Microsoft barging its way into the video game console business having little to no previous presence (the Dreamcast did feature Windows CE as an option for developers). Though I guess it’s not all that surprising when you consider that Microsoft merely broke out the chequebook and bought its way into our living rooms. I don’t know if I’d say the iTunes Store was a surprise. By the time it debuted, we were basically just waiting for someone, anyone to launch a music download store. That Apple, creator of the iPod, which was already something of a success by the time the store launched, was the first to create a store isn’t all too surprising. You might even say it was expected! Biggest surprise of all-time, though, was Hulk Hogan joining the nWo in 1996.

Dave: I’m going to say netbooks. Who knew that a underpowered computer with a tiny screen and a crappy keyboard would turn into such a commodity item. It really goes against the industry standard of “more power” and Moore’s Law, and came out of left field. I don’t know how long the netbook craze will last, but for now Acer and MSI seem to be riding high.