The Band in my Pocket

  • techUK techUK
    Thursday13Jun 2019

    What portable music players tell us about innovation.

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two - basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” (Peter Drucker)


Invention is having a new idea.  Innovation is taking that idea to the market as a commercially successful business. In this 500th Anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, we recognise his incredible ideas for man-powered flight, but it was the Wright brothers who spawned the modern aerospace industry when they flew “Kitty Hawk”. 

Technology developments in electronics, materials, data storage and telecommunications have all been brought to the market, as part of highly successful commercial products.  Inventors, companies and corporations have made money from technology ideas. The story of portable music players over the last 60 years illustrates the critical role of marketing in delivering innovation. Innovation does not happen by accident and a good idea is no guarantee of a good business.  Finance may ease the path of introducing an invention but does not deliver success.  There is a litany of technology ideas that have been generously funded, but which have failed in the marketplace because of poor marketing.  In contrast, there are sound technologies, simply variants of an emerging cohort of technology, which have been highly successful because they have been marketed very effectively.

So, the portable music player story begins with Sony and the invention of the transistor.  Historically, a personal music player was a radio or a record player and both were large because they relied on valve technology and so not portable.  The transistor meant that much smaller devices could be made.


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The band in my pocket (pdf)

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