And this week, Intel Corp., still arguably the most important tech company on the planet, announced that it intended to spend $7 billion in upgrades to its fabrication plants, and not overseas, but right here in the United States in Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon … a decision that is likely to create several thousand new jobs. Apparently, Intel, like its equally strategic and vital retailing counterpart, Wal-Mart, is doubling down its bets on a resurgent economy sometime in the near time horizon.
But, to me, the single most important indicator that high tech is coming back is the fact that every day when I stop by Peet's coffee in Cupertino to get my double large latte, there are at least two, and sometimes three or four, groups of men and women in tight circles hunched over a single laptop making a presentation or typing on spreadsheets. And I see this phenomenon all over Silicon Valley.
I know what these folks are doing, because I've been there: These are start-up teams plotting the creation of new companies. Downturns tend to bring out entrepreneurs, largely because there's a lot more talented people with free time. And these days, with the cost of designing a new app for the iPod or Android phone next to nothing, starting a high-tech company is easier than ever.
That said, I have never seen so many entrepreneurial teams at work as I have in the past few months. And they are the tip of the iceberg: Each one of these teams represents perhaps a dozen more hidden away in rented meeting rooms and home kitchens. I may be dreaming, but what I think I'm seeing is the birth of the largest entrepreneurial boom in Silicon Valley history. And that's saying a lot, because the past few of these booms have been powerful enough to drive the U.S. economy to unequalled prosperity.
My hunch is that by July, enough of these new companies will have emerged that -- combined with hot new markets blooming around eBooks, smart phones and consumer products we can't even imagine yet -- it will be obvious to everyone that high tech is booming again.
But just how big that boom will be is likely to be determined not by the marketplace, but by Washington.
If the Stimulus, as many predict, has the effect of extending rather than shortening the Crunch, these new companies will quickly hit a wall and many will die. The same thing will happen if Sarbanes-Oxley and other economically suicidal regulations remain in place. And it goes without saying that if Washington decides to outlaw risk and reward, supply and demand, and entrepreneurship most of all, it will stop not only this boom but all that should follow.
The horses of high tech are already in their gates, waiting for doors to fly open. If the track is too muddy or if there is a wall across the first turn, don't blame them for not finishing the race.
This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.