Monday, November 7, 2011

Is Becoming a Nation of App Builders a Bad Thing?

The New York Times Magazine launched a new column this weekend called "It's the Economy," by Adam Davidson, designed to "demystify complicated economic issues." Davidson knows a little about this, as the cofounder of Planet Money, "a podcast, blog, and radio series heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on This American Life." His first post was a provocative article called "Can Anyone Really Create Jobs?" The thesis was that only a broad improvement in the economy could create jobs, and there was nothing that CEOs, Governors, nor even Presidents could do to create them directly (except potentially for stimulus on a scale that is politically unfeasible).

Most provocatively - at least to the circles in which I run - was his assertion that:
We don’t need to become a nation of app designers. An economic downturn is a great time to learn things — carpentry, say, or aerospace engineering — that others will eventually pay for
In other words, tech is being driven by a force that Davidson fundamentally believes to be unsustainable: the rise in apps, mobile and web, that are in turn driving the consumer web boom. This is interesting to consider given that tech is one of the few sectors that is not just hiring but can't do so fast enough, and because of its implications for the "are we in a bubble" debate.

I'm not sure if I agree but I'm not sure if I disagree either. It comes down to whether a startup is just an app or a real business. Apps are a powerful technology like the Internet is a powerful technology, but just as with the Internet the sustainable companies will mostly be businesses that leverage apps, rather than app businesses.

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