BusinessWeek asks the million dollar question: "What’s Really Propping Up The Economy?"
Their answer — not housing, technology, or finance — is health care:
"If you really want to understand what makes the U.S. economy tick these days, don’t go to Silicon Valley, Wall Street, or Washington. Just take a short trip to your local hospital. Park where you don’t block the ambulances, and watch the unending flow of doctors, nurses, technicians, and support personnel. You’ll have a front-row seat at the health-care economy.
Without it the nation’s labor market would be in a deep coma. Since 2001, 1.7 million new jobs have been added in the health-care sector, which includes related industries such as pharmaceuticals and health insurance. Meanwhile, the number of private-sector jobs outside of health care is no higher than it was five years ago.
Sure, housing has been a bonanza for homebuilders, real estate agents, and mortgage brokers. Together they have added more than 900,000 jobs since 2001. But the pressures of globalization and new technology have wreaked havoc on the rest of the labor market: Factories are still closing, retailers are shrinking, and the finance and insurance sector, outside of real estate lending and health insurers, has generated few additional jobs."
Quite a picture:
The biggest surprise in the column was that Tech hasn’t created all that much in temrs of new jobs:
"Perhaps most surprising, information technology, the great electronic
promise of the 1990s, has turned into one of the biggest job-growth
disappointments of all time. Despite the splashy success of companies
such as Google (GOOG ) and Yahoo! (YHOO ), businesses at the core of
the information economy — software, semiconductors, telecom, and the
whole gamut of Web companies — have lost more than 1.1 million jobs in
the past five years. Those businesses employ fewer Americans today than
they did in 1998, when the Internet frenzy kicked into high gear."
Fascinating stuff . . . worth checking out the full article.
What’s Really Propping Up The Economy
Michael Mandel, Joseph Weber
Business Week, SEPTEMBER 25, 2006 http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_39/b4002001.htm
What do you think of the new Zune?
That question led to fascinating discussion about Microsoft on Thursday. What they do, how they work, brainstorm, etc. It also covered how Microsoft develops new products (notice I didn’t say innovate).
A few quick thoughts on the Zune: The coolest thing is its owners ability to zap songs back and forth via a Wi-Fi
connection — but those songs expire after "three plays or three days, whichever
comes first," which is kinda poor. The 3 inch screen versus the 2.5 inch on the iPod also looks pretty nice. Other than that, its not a particularly compelling piece of hardware.
Brown? How long til that gets cancelled?
We don’t know the price yet, but I expect it to be in the $249 – 349 range, and a function of how much MSFT is willing to lose/subsidize each unit.
What I found most fascinating about "This Week in Microsoft" were the 3 separate products that leaked out over the past few days:
• The Zune iPod challenger (in classic "steal the other guys thunder" following Apple’s event)
Let’s get a few things straight about Mister Softee. First, forget all the chatter coming from Redmond about innovation. They are now and have always been uttery shameless copycats. They do not innovate; They do not create cool products; They are boring code writing cubicle dwelling drones — and that’s what they should be.
The second thing you need to know about Microsoft: They print money like they were a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department.
That is the bottom line for investors, and the cash ain’t coming from all these other products attempting to recapture lighting in a bottle. Its Windows 1st, Office 2nd, and then a big 4 way tie for SQL, Hardware (mouses etc.) Server SW, and then everything else. All these other products — including Xbox, hotmail, MSN, etc. — are what happens when you have more money than God and still want to be one of the cool kids.
And, they’d probably get just as much criticism if they didn’t make all these attempts at imitating other successful innovators. Otherwise, they would just be a mature company milking their monopoly products until the next paradigm shift came along.
Understand my complaint about Redmond: I don’t begudge them these many attempts to stay relevant and hip, to keep pressing buttons until they find the next thing that works. Hey, after you become one of the most successful firms in the history of Capitalism, it becomes hard to repeat that performance every quarter.
I’m just tired of the bullshit about all their terrific innovations (Spare me the techno-babble about multithreading processors or dynamic ram usage).
To understand how Microsoft got to be the "innovator" it is today, you need to have some background into the psychology of its leadership. My favorite example comes via Robert Cringely
If there is a reason, it has to come from the competitive nature of Bill
Gates as Microsoft’s spiritual and ethical leader. Everything is a competition
to Bill, and every competition has a winner and a loser. Microsoft people have
always been encouraged to see the game, not the consequences, and to win the
game even if winning this way makes no sense.
Let me give an example of this behavior. In the early days of Microsoft, one
of the popular games was to see how late the boys could leave work for the
airport and still make their flights. These weren’t people who were habitually
late, they were playing a game. The eventual winner was Bill Gates, of course,
but to win he had to abandon his car [a new Porsche 911] at the departures curb.
Tht pretty much says it all. They are competitive to a fault — its in their DNA. Its also why they have been such a vast money machine. But please: Spare us the sanctimonious garbage about Microsoft the innovator, and keep the focus on Microsoft the moneymaker.
Here’s some more recent ideas out of the innovation factory: