Rip. Mix. Burn.

Here’s a quick look at how Steve Jobs introduces a new product.

It’s 2001, and Steve is going to give the first public demo of iTunes.

Long before iTunes became a toxic hellstew’, it was as a product that solved a simple problem, making your music digital.

I’ve broken down the 10 min presentation into four parts. At a high level, Steve has two goals.

  1. Explain why” they decided to build iTunes.
  2. Explain what” iTunes is. This is covered by the demo in the second half.


There’s a music revolution happening right now.”

Before streaming (and iPods) existed, people were listening to musics on cds. But they wanted to move music around and burn custom playlists.”

This was a digital revolution’. He uses a single statistic to drive this point home: In 2000, 320m blank discs were sold.”

He then breaks down this new behavior into understandable use-cases

  • You want to rip your audio cds onto your computer disk.”

  • You can create playlists of your favorite songs.”

  • You can listen to playlists on your computer, like when you’re working.”

  • You can burn your playlists onto custom cds.”


  • You can transfer your songs onto portable MP3 players.”

  • Tune into digital radio.”

Competitors / Pain points

Later in this presentation he admits Apple is late to the party. Digital music apps existed. He quickly moves through a few screenshots of very complicated looking UIs.

I’ve talked to so many people using them, who don’t know about 3/4 of the features!”

He thinks the main problem is they are too complicated. This will become the point of difference for iTunes (it’s simple.)

He also mentions restrictions (paid-for features, no mp3 encoding, throttling burning speed).

Introducing iTunes.

So, before he introduces iTunes, he has explained what people want to do rip music and create custom playlists” and he showed the main problem with competitors, they are too complicated.

First thing he does is show the UI. It looks like this. Simple, clean, far more powerful.”


  • Allows you to have libraries of music.
  • Allows you to rip cds
  • Allows you to create playlists
  • Allows you to create cds
  • All within one integrated app.

Remember these? These are the things that people want to do. In a few seconds he’s connected user needs to the features of iTunes.


Apple is famous for product demonstrations. What I found interesting is how fast he moves through the product. He hits all the core use-cases (ripping, playing, searching) and then he’s done. There’s a sprinkle of showmanship (playing music), but that’s it. And every example is grounded in a real-life problem, like trying to find a specific song.

Below, I’ve listed out the main things he does in the demo, and coded it with (UNDERSTAND) or (DO). Understand is explaining the system, Do is something a user might do with the software.

Part 1: Ripping Love Shack”

  • Puts in CD. (DO)
  • It reads CD & pulls in track titles. (UNDERSTAND)
  • You can move around the columns. (DO)
  • Let’s go ahead and rip love shack” (DO)
  • All I have to do is click import” (DO)
  • It’s going to rip it, and put it in my library (UNDERSTAND)
  • You can play it if you want.. Starts playing music as the song rips. (DO)
  • As song rips… It’s ripping at 8x regular speed” (UNDERSTAND)
  • iTunes plays a tone when it’s done.
  • We’ve finished ripping. (UNDERSTAND)
  • Now we can play it from disk if we want. (DO)
  • Very very simple. Steve keeps saying this throughout the demo. It’s clearly the main message he wants to get across.

Part 2: Drag and drop

  • I’ve got a bunch of songs in a folder. All I have to do is drag and drop it on top of iTunes.” (DO)
  • I’ve got about 1000 songs in here. (UNDERSTAND)
  • I can sort by song, artist… just be clicking. (DO)
  • I can play any song just by clicking it. (DO)
  • I get a nice little display up here. (UNDERSTAND)
  • Pretty simple.

Part 3: Browse

  • There’s a few other ways to do it. I can browse by album. (UNDERSTAND+DO_
  • I can look at the Beatles, and I can see all their albums here.
  • He drills down from Beatles, to Album to song.

Part 4: Search

  • The (music) quality is incredible.
  • There’s an even easier way to find things out of my 1100 songs.
  • We’ve automatically indexed and made it magic. (UNDERSTAND)
  • I’ve got a Dylan Thomas song here… I type D, Y, L.. (DO)
  • I can type in anything, artist name, album name. (DO)
  • I wanna find When I’m sixty four” So I just type in s-i-x and Boom. There I am. (DO)

Not sure if that was the exact end of the demo, but you get the picture. I’ve put together far more complicated decks for far less exciting features than this. Lots to learn here!

As a side note, here’s an ad promoting iTunes.

Classic Apple advertising, distilled iTunes into a core message. Your music.”

July 5, 2019

100 miles