The Day the iPod Died

When the battery in Casey Neistat’s beloved iPod gave out after 18 months of almost daily use, he set about trying to replace it only to discover that Apple didn’t offer a new battery. You’re better off buying a new iPod, the techies on the support line told him. That’s not what Neistat, a multimedia artist in New York, wanted to hear. So he did what any self-respecting, pissed-off multimedia artist does these days: He fought back on the Web.

Neistat’s short film, iPod’s Dirty Secret, features him spray-painting a “public service announcement” on iPod ads around the city: “iPod’s Unreplaceable Battery Lasts Only 18 Months.”

The film generated buzz among iPodites. And a funny thing happened. Within days, Apple started selling iPod batteries. It was merely a coincidence, the company said. Either way, this fascinating story, which appeared in the Washington Post over the weekend, raises some interesting questions. If you create a product that customers develop an intense emotional attachment to, how long should that product last before it needs to be replaced? And when the product does die, how should you respond to avoid turning your most ardent supporters into your most vociferous critics?

Of course those aren’t the only questions surrounding Apple these days. In the January issue of Fast Company, Carleen Hawn explores a larger and more fundamental issue: If Apple is so brilliant and innovative, why isn’t it more successful?