The tech industry: one or many?

After reading How Zynga went from social gaming powerhouse to has-been, most would be convinced that the “social gaming bubble” has popped.

It’s interesting that “the tech industry” can be large enough such that a significant sub-industry can go through a full boom and bust cycle without materially affecting other sub-industries.

In the past few years we have witnessed the rise and fall of several sub-industries including social gaming, subscription commerce, and group buying. But that hasn’t slowed down what people think of as “tech” as a whole. Perhaps the ups and downs from each sub-industry are like waves at different phases, and if there are enough of them they start to cancel each other out.

I once had a conversation with someone who ran a publicly traded technology company during the 2000 crash. He told me that one day, customers who had already signed purchase orders for their products started to cancel them en masse. Additionally, the pipeline of new orders for their product dropped by 80%. Then, in a matter of weeks, some of their largest customers started to declare bankruptcy. Next, they noticed a huge glut of their products on the secondary market because their former customers were liquidating. The bottom fell out.

Is “the tech industry” so complex and robust that it is no longer a single industry, and thus a concept in need of rethinking, or are all of the boats still tied together? I am genuinely unsure. One property of Black Swans is that they only seem obvious in retrospect.

 
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