Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

It's Still the Economy, Silicon Valley

flushing_toilet

Last week, the economy took a much needed breather from its toilet-circling behavior of late, with the stock market showing gains for several days running.

Who knows what today will bring, given all the volatility. But most of the big consumer-focused digital companies–I am using Yahoo (YHOO), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) as proxies for the sector–saw solid upticks over the last five days.

Yahoo shares rose close to four percent, Google was up just over five percent, Microsoft gained almost nine percent, while Amazon leaped 11.3 percent and Apple shot up 12.5 percent.

You could also feel the revelry from afar at the South by Southwest gathering that started this weekend in Austin, Texas, with lots of Web 2.0 partying and discussions of a Twitterific-Facebooktastic future.

Maybe happy days are here again, right?

Um, nope, just as when BoomTown wrote last September in a piece called: “Dear Web 2.0: It’s Still the Economy, Stupid!”

At the time, I wrote:

“Most companies in Web 2.0–despite their massive valuations over the last few years–-aren’t going to have the chance get frothy and light enough to become so poppable.

Instead, most will likely fizzle away quietly, with no exits in sight as the economy weakens and puts a vise grip on companies that cannot survive the very tough financial road ahead.”

Why? Well, because there still is no traction in sight for a true recovery and there will not be any for quite a while.

You need only to look at those big public companies and their stock market performance over the last six months, the true scoreboard, results that will iterate downward throughout the sector.

And, it has been exactly as the econalypse has advertised: Yahoo down 28.3 percent; Microsoft down almost 38 percent; Google dropping 25.2 percent; Amazon off 11.3 percent; and Apple dipping 31.6 percent.

And, of course, most expect that the next round of first-quarter earnings, coming around the end of April, to be weak overall for this group, given their reliance on consumer spending, advertising and general bonhomie that is surely lacking.

That, in turn, means few acquisitions and still no IPOs for Web 2.0 companies. Although only Facebook is likely to try for that gold ring, its prospects are still uneven at best, despite impressive audience growth at the social-networking site.

So, as I said before and will say again: It’s the economy, and Silicon Valley–as was true six months ago–is still not immune.

happy-days

One bright light when it does manage to turn is that tech will likely see the first bounce, especially compared to pretty much all the other sectors of the economy.

Tech companies are relatively healthy with strong cash balance sheets and have shown a commitment to making cost cuts and layoffs that are long past due.

That’s all good. But, of course, the only thing that will send this all back into truly positive territory will be new products and innovations to introduce when the world is ready to spend again and grow.

As in: A lot more nose to the grindstone and a lot less party-hearty inanity.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work