Every recession, every major generation of the Valley, naysayers come out and say the good days are over – but Silicon Valley continues to reinvent itself.
The latest herald of doom is Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun. In a Business Insider interview Scott claims that Silicon Valley’s emerging sectors, like social networking and “green” technology, will not make up for jobs lost due to the software and computer industry consolidation. But with big names like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook planning for expansion, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume it’s all over.
Claiming that every new transition creates less job opportunity than before, Scott lacks confidence in the future potential of contemporary partnerships to flourish. But he’s wrong. Not only is it anticipated that social networking industries will more than make up for lost jobs, but we are likely to see unprecedented growth in the consolidation of software and hardware companies. The technology sector never fails to impress me with new innovation and change, and this “recession” is no exception.
Even Obama sees it (although maybe he is here fund raising at the same time). He says that our tech companies are the heirs to the industries that made the United States the worlds biggest economy. He is in the Bay Area today to discuss job creation and innovation around the Silicon Valley with executives like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, and many more.
Maybe the irony is stinging. Facebook announced last week that it will in fact move its corporate headquarters to Sun’s old facility in Menlo Park (Sun having been swallowed by the Oracle whale). This is Facebook’s second move in the last two years and they have now leased a 1-million-square-foot campus. Google has announced a big addition as well, introducing a new campus in San Francisco to help alleviate long commutes. Google has also experienced a record 75,000 job applications over the last week, and they expect to grow more than 30,000 employees by 2012 (Dow Jones).
It is software technology that is driving this growth. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, claims that more than 300,000 Android devices are being activated everyday, requiring more engineers and sales people to keep up with the high demand. “This will be our biggest hiring year ever,” said Jordan Newman (a Google company spokesman). Note — FirstRain is currently hiring in California and India.
Sadly I think Nokia is trying to get back to growth by partnering with Microsoft for their phone OS but my personal opinion is they just killed what was once a great phone provider. Microsoft may gain – they are trying to make the new Windows Phone 7 a success – and they are hooking up with Nokia’s strong hardware but I doubt the combination will compete. But they are not the only ones focusing on Valley software innovation. Their old competitor, Sony Ericsson, is shifting resources from its headquarters in Sweden to Silicon Valley in order to keep up with the shifting increase from hardware to software demands in the mobile phone industry.
I think Scott is just plain wrong, or certainly colored by his predominantly hardware background. He believes that Silicon Valley is “not the best place in the world to start a company,” but the evidence in the software world is to the contrary. Maybe it’s just his personal preference, but as Senator Mark Warner of Virginia correctly claims, the Internet and social networking have been “one of the rare areas of growth in the U.S. economy” in a decade that didn’t spur much innovation.
As for “green” technology not being able to make up for lost jobs that is certainly true in the short term, as it typically takes a full generation for a new industry to take effect. However, the key to the Silicon Valley economy is now software innovation, and we’re excited to be a part of it.