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It may seem completely counterintuitive, but the biggest influence on retail and real estate in the last 10 years is something technological—the introduction of the iPod. This small gadget has had a large and lasting effect on retailers well beyond music and electronics by redefining the way people interact with their computers. And that has affected retail—and other aspects of popular culture—tremendously.

Before the iPod’s October 2001 introduction, personal computers were used mostly for business tasks, schoolwork and, for a few, gaming. People listened to music on large stereos with large speakers, or privately via compact discs and cassettes. Most important, the actual entertainment itself, whether it was music or video, was purchased or rented in any number of physical stores—Tower Records, Musicland, Blockbuster Video, HMV.

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