Features

Year's best gadget

National

Issue: "Year in Review 2004," Jan. 1, 2005

If the 1960s were about free love, the first four years of the 21st century have been about free music. The Recording Industry Association of America prefers to call the mass movement of audiophiles who share and copy music through the internet grand larceny. But Apple, the progressive computer maker, turned it into a (legal) marketing strategy. Apple's portable player, iPod, which first appeared in stores in October 2001, this year became a mainstay in America's gadget bag. With about a 10,000-song capacity, a music lover can copy his entire CD collection (or his ill-gotten Napster stash) to a device the size of a cigarette pack.

The iPod revolution hasn't hurt Apple's bottom line. Hitting retail shelves this year, it sold 4.4 million iPods compared to 939,000 in 2003 and 381,000 in 2002-making the pocket-size player a $1.3 billion business for Apple. Could iPod convert PC users into Macintosh computer users, too? That's Apple's hope.

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