Explaining Southern California's economy

The secret of the Apple iPhone's success: Profits!

New Apple CEO Tim Cook Introduces iPhone 4s

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 04: Apple's Senior Vice President of iOS Scott Forstall speaks about the new voice recognition app called Siri at the event introducing the new iPhone 4s at the company's headquarters October 4, 2011 in Cupertino, California. The announcement marks the first time new CEO Tim Cook introduced a new product since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resigned in August. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Apple just flat-out killed it last quarter, largely on the strength of iPhone sales. Most analysts, technological and financial, now readily agree that Apple reinvented the smartphone business with the iPhone by putting a computer in your pocket. What's perhaps less apparent is that Apple also reinvented the business model for mobile communications. That's why this headline from CNET provokes a double-take: "iPhone Soaks Up 75 Percent of All Mobile Phone Profits."

What?!?! Three quarters of all profits available in the mobile space go to Cupertino? That's remarkable. Here's CNET:

Though it holds only around 9 percent of the global mobile phone market, Apple raked in 75 percent of all profits across the industry last quarter, according to Asymco analyst Horace Dediu.

That left rival Samsung with 16 percent of the profit pie, RIM with 3.7 percent, HTC with 3 percent, and Nokia rounding out the list of 1.8 percent. All together that pie represents around $15 billion in profits for the final quarter of 2011.

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Talking Facebook IPO on 'America Now with Andy Dean'

I joined Andy Dean on his radio show, "America Now with Andy Dean," once again for a spirited half hour of discussion and debate about the mighty Facebook IPO filing. We were able to hit the important highlights, and I was glad I could make one of my favorite points about Facebook. And that is: Facebook has built what may be a $100 billion valuation (although it might not go public at quite that high, high level) on what it is essentially the donated labor of 845 million active users.

What does that mean? Simple: You update your status, you post pictures and videos, you play Zynga games, your hit that Like button across the Web — and you do this repeatedly and often, enabling Facebook to capture this activity and sell it to advertisers. No wonder the company has been so reluctant to do an IPO — it's making billions off free content and doesn't need to actually pay the public anything! Unfortunately, the company now has so many private shareholders that the SEC is effectively forcing Facebook to go public (the SEC won't let you amass private shareholders forever).

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Super Bowl ads: Great for Los Angeles, but it's still all about TV

The L.A. Times' Meg James has a great piece today about how a kind of advertising-tech axis is developing in Los Angeles, combining our resurgent ad agencies and all the new tech firms that have sprung up on the Westside and that are being called "Silicon Beach." (There was a Silicon Beach of sorts back during the 1990s dotcom boom, so this isn't so much a completely new thing as a reboot.)

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the much-anticipated ads for the Super Bowl. Here's some salient language:

More than 110 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl on TV, making it the biggest advertising event of the year. The pressure to perform is intense. Broadcaster NBC has charged a record $3.5 million for each 30-second spot. The commercials, which can cost an additional $2 million to make, will be analyzed and replayed as much as the action on the field. More than 20 of the high-profile commercials, including those promoting Hollywood films, were created locally.

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January jobs report: Even better than December

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

That sound you heard emanating from Washington this morning might just be the great lurching creak of the U.S. economy finally turning the corner. While we were all transfixed by Facebook's IPO filing, the number crunchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) discovered that in January, the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs — a very significant improvement over the really quite good December number of 200,000. This was enough to shave another 0.2 pecent off the unemployment rate, bringing it down to 8.3 percent from December's 8.5 percent.

Oh, and about the December numbers: They were even better than initially reported. The BLS revised them, as it does for the previous month with each new month, to 203,000 from 200,000. Is it right to get excited about 3,000 new jobs? Given how intractable the unemployment crisis has been, you'd have to say "Heck yeah!"

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How to save America: Build better cities

Expo Park/USC Station

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Expo Park/USC Station.

Felix Salmon has an interesting post today about how China has managed to keep it together depsite very trying economic times. The bottom line? Healthy investment in urban infrastructure. Which has fueled a boom in the creation of service-related jobs — just what you want if you need to think long-term about moving your economy away from agriculture and manufacturing. 

Cities, therefore, are good. Of course, China can do fine with a mix of agricultural and manufacturing labor at its core, with services a distant dream. The U.S., on the other hand, needs to push for service employment, as that's where the high incomes are. And we need high-income jobs to define America's future. Felix offers his formulation for how to get them:

How do you create service-industry jobs? By investing in cities and inter-city infrastructure like smart grids and high-speed rail. Services flourish where people are close together and can interact easily with the maximum number of people. If we want to create jobs in America, we should look to services, rather than the manufacturing sector. And while it’s hard to create those jobs directly, you can definitely try to do it indirectly, by building the platforms on which those jobs are built. They’re called cities. And America is, sadly, very bad at keeping its cities modern and flourishing. 1950s-era suburbia won’t cut it any more. But who in government is going to embrace our urban future?

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