MacExpo attendees have always had great stuff to say about Apple and the Mac, but this year they are brimming with positivity about the future of the company, all thanks to the iPod.
The iPod has had a staring roll at the last three Expos. In 2001 attendees caught the first glimpse of the very first generation iPod, announced a month earlier. 2002 saw increased interest in the media player and by 2003 large numbers of Mac fans either had one or were planning to get one really soon.
This year the iPod phenomenon has turned a corner and gone mainstream. It's no longer a question of whether you have one but how many people you know who have one. And, as one exhibitor pointed out, iPod has become the word to describe an MP3 player, like the name Walkman became the common name for a personal stereo, and Hoover the name we all use to describe a vacuum cleaner.
Anyone attending the Expo is likely to have been exposed to images of the iPod on their way from public transport to the Business Design centre – local tube stations at Angel and Highbury and Islington were swathed in the highly recognisable iPod adverts, as were bus shelters and the like.
Even if they didn't notice them, it is likely that they would have seen evidence of iPod ownership. Nicolas Down, an artist from Dorking, Surrey said: "It seems that wherever you look these days you see those tell tail iPod earphones. I saw lots of people with iPods on the tube."
Royal Holloway University student Emily Chong already owns an iPod, as do the majority of her fellow students. "It seems like everyone has one, all the students, and probably some of the lecturers." Perhaps students aren't only spending their student loans in the SU bar these days?
Not content with her third-generation iPod, Emily now wants an iPod photo. "I think the colour screen is great. And it's great to be able to carry photos around – so you can remind friends of embarrassing things they did."
The iPod has become a phenomenon, and in so doing it has raised Apple's brand to new heights. Mark Wangrove, a graphic designer from London, said: "The iPod has certainly done its part in making the MP3 music player phenomenon take off. And Apple has become a global phenomenon all thanks to the iPod."
Richard Slaid from Bracknell in Berkshire said: "This is a really interesting time for Apple. The public has come to recognise it as a cool brand. The iPod is helping get people interested in the Mac. Raising curiosity."
Mark Wangrove, a graphic designer from London, said: "Apple is well recognised these days. It's become a global phenomenon all thanks to the iPod."
Expo attendees are confident that Apple can maintain the momentum with the iPod, even as its competitors spring into action with their own iPod-killers, and the issues of the incompatibilities of the digital rights management aspect of iTunes music becomes more apparent to iPod owners wanting more choice.
Dave Scutfield from Newcastle said: "The iPod is raising awareness, but a lot of people still see Apple as the modern equivalent of the Betamax video – doomed to failure. I don't think that is the case. I think Apple is being very cleaver here."
Tim Norton from Epsom, Surrey suggested: "It will be a good thing even if Apple don't keep the market share they currently have with the iPod – if the iPod became too mainstream Apple would loose its cool."
Nicolas Down from Dorking, Surrey believes that the iPod will help Apple grow its PC market share: "The profits from the iPod will help keep Apple ahead and they will be really successful. The iPod is making people aware of how good Apple, and the Mac, is. People will look at what else they have to offer. And a lot of people are going to be impressed. I really think Apple will grow its market share now."