>Worse, Apple opted for hard disk technology while every other manufacturer believed solid-state storage was the ideal portable storage.
>It duly signed up the only supplier of miniature hard disks that would fit the iPod form-factor and locked them into an exclusivity contract, in return guaranteeing that it would purchase its entire stock regardless.
That meant no one else could make hard disk MP3 players, even if they had wanted to. Don'tcha just love the free market?
So on the one hand, you're suggesting that nobody else wanted to make HDD-based players, but also saying that nobody else could make HDD-based players?
It was very hard to get hold of those little Toshiba HDDs... The only way I could hold of one to fix my iRiver H320 was to dissect an iPod with a broken screen. I chose the iRiver over the iPod because of wider Codec support, drag-n-drop support, USB-host support, line in and microphone recording, and supposed audio quality... oh, and it was slightly cheaper. I later found out that Rockbox let my play Doom on it (a pointless exercise really, but cool) and Gameboy classics.
It was frustrating a year or two later to be unable to buy a non-iPod HDD player.
Nor did the iPod introduce the 'scroll wheel' to portable audio- I had one on my Sharp minidisc player/recorder, though it wasn't used for track select - instead it was for jogging through tracks, and for entering text.
The pre-iPod HDD players were often a bit shit, though. The Creative that looked like a portable CD player was a silly form factor, and the later Creative Nomad was unreliable (the audio-out jack was soldered directly to the PCB, and so was unforgiving of longer audio jacks)