Over the years there have been several exciting products birthed as a result of innovation. We speak mainly of the birth of successful innovations and breakthrough inventions, but less so of the death of these inventions and times when we have to say goodbye to what once seemed like a disruptive product. How do breakthrough inventions of today become the old tales of yesterday? Is there really a “lifespan” for innovation?

Let’s explore the iPod.

Through a press release in May 2022, Apple announced that the iPod was no longer in production and that the remaining stock will be sold. For Carolina Milanesi from Creative Strategies, “The disappearance of the iPod is probably the best example that Apple is not worried about cannibalising its own products.”

The iPod set a standard in its time and paved the way for other products such as the iPhone and the iPad. Reading through blogs and social media comments, we came across people saying that with a bit of renewed love and innovation, Apple could have done something to spark revitalised interest in the iPod. However, doing so would likely have meant spending many resources differentiating it from the iPhone.

David Phelan of Forbes writes that the decision is probably not a financial one because “music has become too big for the iPod.” One of the most significant changes in the music industry was the arrival of streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music itself, which meant that you didn’t need to download all your music on your device to have access to it most of the time.

Apple understood not only the times they were in, but more so they understood their customers and their changing preferences. They killed what felt like one of the greatest inventions of its time, and focused on making more innovative and relevant products.

Compare Apple’s actions to those of former handset maker Sony Ericsson, which from its inception in 2001 until its dissolution into the Japanese parent company in 2009, pursued about 200 handset projects. When the smartphone era came, the company had already invested huge resources and innovation power into outgoing trends and were not able to respond quickly enough to changing customer preferences.

Times change, and so must we, for us to truly be innovative. And so, just as there is a time to say hello to new innovations, there may also be times to say goodbye.