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.