The Apple iPod by HP

On January 8, 2004, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina brandished a blue device and proudly announced a deal with Apple. The agreement would produce the “Apple iPod by HP”, a market oddity which was made available nine months later and, after weak sales, was discontinued in 2005.

Also called the “Apple iPod + HP”, this was the first (and only) iPod license ever allowed: Apple would manufacture a version of the iPod for HP and the iTunes software would be pre-installed on all HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario computers. Although it was short-lived, at the time the deal made sense for both of the companies.

In 2004 the iPod franchise was a growing success but the digital player hadn’t yet conquered the bulk of the market (this would happen the next year, thanks to the iPod mini). Apple was interested in anything that would further grow its penetration and mindshare, in particular after the launch of the iTunes Store for Windows, which had debuted just three months prior. Thanks to HP’s distribution network, the “iPod + HP” would be sold in retailers where Apple lacked a presence, such as Wal-Mart, RadioShack, and Office Depot.

The other party, Hewlett-Packard, was a giant of consumer PCs but was keen on expanding its multimedia offerings and renew its image*. It chose not to compete with the cool new device made by Apple and to adopt it and integrate it tightly with its offer.

The original plan (according to the prototype shown in January) was for the device to be in “HP Blue” to complement Hewlett-Packard’s computers, but by the time it came out, in mid-2004, it was in the exact same white color as the original.
The only noticeable difference (apart from the box it came in) was an HP logo cum “invent” motto on the back.
“Digital music enthusiasts” could personalize the look by buying “HP Printable Tattoos”, adhesive skins pre-cut in the shape of the iPod, sold by HP in 10-packs at 14.99 USD.
Interestingly, the “Apple iPod + HP” was not to be considered an Apple product. It was supported and had to be serviced exclusively by HP and Apple Store Genius Bars were not authorized to accept or repair it.

iPods and the iPod + HP

Initially HP offered 4th-generation iPods in 20 and 40 GB sizes but later the offer expanded to also feature the iPod mini, the iPod photo, and even the iPod shuffle.

The partnership, though, was not a success and supposedly accounted only for 5% of Apple’s (then skyrocketing) iPod sales. On July 29, 2005, HP terminated its deal with Apple but was bound continue pre-installing iTunes on new home computers until January 2006 and could not develop or sell an iPod competitor until August 2006. After these dates HP rushed to announce a partnership with RealNetworks to install the Rhapsody service software and launched its own Compaq-branded audio player, which failed to gain traction in the market.

Initially HP offered 4th-generation iPods in 20 and 40 GB sizes but later the offer expanded to also feature the iPod mini, the iPod photo, and even the iPod shuffle.
The partnership, though, was not a success and supposedly accounted only for 5% of Appleā€™s (then skyrocketing) iPod sales. On July 29, 2005, HP terminated its deal with Apple but was bound continue pre-installing iTunes on new home computers until January 2006 and could not develop or sell an iPod competitor until August 2006. After these dates HP rushed to announce a partnership with RealNetworks to install the Rhapsody service software and launched its own Compaq-branded audio player, which failed to gain traction in the market.

* as exemplified by new hip graphics and mottos such as “You rock the PC” and “You are your playlist”

Note: the iPod + HP box image is taken from the Hewlett-Packard website and is copyright by HP. The iPod group picture is by “AS Design” and it’s taken from the Flickr page.

Tuesday 14 January 2014, 8:50 am
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