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The app economy: Jobs boom...or bubble?

Are apps where the jobs are? Maybe not.
Are apps where the jobs are? Maybe not.

A couple of people called my attention to this report from TechNet, on the apparent jobs boom in the so-called "app economy." Here's Slate's Matt Yglesias, who considers it a positive trend — with a future:

[TechNet economist Michael Mandel's] basic point is an extremely sound one. As I've argued before, doing the same old thing but doing it with a smartphone ap is a huge part of the future of innovation in America. A little processor power plus constant internet connectivity plus location services plus a camera has incredibly broad applications for all kinds of everyday service delivery and this, rather than building devices, is where the big economic impact comes in. 

Apple might disagree with this, given its recent, iPhone-fueled financial results. You could certainly argue that there was no app economy — and none of the 466,000 jobs created by it since 2007, according to TechNet — without the Apple App Store. Which came first? The App platform, in the iPhone. Build it and they will come.

But even if you agree with Matt and Mandel that apps are the future...well, I've felt rumblings to the effect that all those jobs may not be sustainable. At his blog A VC, New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson has expressed some skepticism about apps being a good startup investment:

[M]obile is hard because distribution continues to be limited to the app store model where you get on the leaderboard and win or you don't and you don't. Investors are moving into new areas like cloud, peer to peer marketplaces, and trying to take what worked in consumer into the enterprise. There is no lack of interest in internet investing, but investors are having to learn new markets and new sectors. And that kind of transition takes the heat out of an overheated market.

So what TechNet might actually be observing isn't a boom in app jobs but a bubble. And if Fred's right, then that bubble could burst, as investment capital is withdrawn, withheld, or diverted into other areas. 

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