Tony Fadell, iPod Godfather, steps down as special advisor to Steve Jobs

Tue, Mar 30, 2010

Apple History, News

When you work at a company as large as Apple, your accomplishments and contributions to a device even as revolutionary and important as the iPod often go unnoticed to the public at large.

One notable exception to the rule is Tony Fadell, a former Apple employee often referred to as the “godfather of the iPod.”

Fadell first came up with the idea for what would eventually become the iPod in the late 1990’s, and it was only after he was unable to establish a working relationship with Real Networks that Fadell approached Apple with his idea in 2001. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fadell would go on to rise through the Apple ranks, and would eventually become the head of Apple’s iPod division, replacing Jon Rubinstein who would eventually go on to help Palm develop the Palm Pre.

Fadell spearheaded Apple’s iPod efforts from 2006-2008, after which he decided to step down from his position as an Apple executive. Since then, though, he’s remained a salaried Apple employee tasked with being a special advisor to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

And now the New York Times is reporting that Fadell has stepped down from that position as well, marking a complete break between Fadell and the company that turned his idea into one of the most important and iconic technological devices of all time.

While refusing to discuss his time at Apple, Fadell told the Times that he would be moving on to “advise companies and pursue private investments with a focus on green technology.”

“My primary focus will be helping the environment by working with consumer green-tech companies,” Fadell said to the Times over the phone, “I’m determined to tell my kids and grandkids amazing stories beyond my iPod and iPhone ones.”

It’s not entirely clear what prompted Fadell to relinquish his position at Apple in 2008, but some rumors suggest that the decision was the result of an internal dispute he had with Steve Jobs and others within Apple over what type of device the iPhone should be. As the story goes, Fadell envisioned the iPhone (while it was still in development) as being an iPod that just happened to make phone calls. Other members of the Apple brass, however, argued that the iPhone should be equal parts iPod and equal parts a stand alone Internet communication device, of which making calls would merely be one of its many features.

Related: Did Steve Jobs predict that Fadell would be leaving Apple?


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