For months, the question asked softly around Silicon Valley has been: Is this another tech bubble?
With restaurants filled with well-paid tech workers and home prices soaring into the stratosphere, such doubts are usually shrugged off with a phrase that hasn't been heard much around the San Francisco Bay Area since the spring of 2000: "It's different this time."
Yes, it is different. Significantly, Silicon Valley giants, unlike the tiny start-ups of the dot-com era, are highly profitable, and some have billions of dollars in cash. However, the outlook for technology rests on a highly complex economic and geopolitical landscape, and that has been shaken recently by the potential for Russian intervention in Ukraine, the strikes by ISIS in Iraq, Israel's actions in Gaza and new fears about the debts of some European governments.
Since setting a new high a month ago, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index, like much of the broader market, has fallen back in choppy trading. And, in just the past week, two independent studies have found new signs of doubt that technology sales, while still growing, will reach levels expected when 2014 began.
The latest report comes from CompTIA, the computer industry trade association. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based organization reported its IT Industry Business Confidence Index fell slightly in the third quarter to 60.1 on a scale of 100 from 61.3 in the second quarter. The index is based on the opinions of IT executives about the US economy, the technology industry and their own companies.
According to a statement, three-quarters of the managers said they were on target or ahead of their 2014 revenue goals halfway through the year, well ahead of the 68 percent who could say that a year ago. By company size, execs at 93 percent of medium IT firms and 80 percent of larger companies said they were on track for sales. The same was true for 74 percent of small companies and 58 percent of "micro firms."
However the 293 industry executives surveyed during July showed concern over a number of factors. For example, 44 percent said they're concerned about price-sensitive customers.