Let's take a moment and try to imagine the U.S. economy when this recession is over.
But let's suppose that there is a sudden outbreak of sanity among our political leaders: they stop driving the nation's CEOs into defensive postures, they abandon their attempts to destroy entrepreneurship and venture capital, and they stop threatening onerous new taxes and regulations -- basically, they just get out of the way -- and let the economy finish healing itself.
What happens next? Who will be the big winners, especially in high tech, in the next boom? Here are my guesses:
Apple: I'll start with the Big If. With the spectacular, and historically almost unprecedented, run of the iPod, iTunes and iPhone, Apple was the big winner in consumer electronics during the last boom. And I have no doubt that, with the talent the company has, the money it's got in the bank, and the guaranteed sales it enjoys for any new product with its army of fans, Apple can rule the next boom as well … but only as long as Steve Jobs is around.
With Jobs, Apple is not just brilliant, but fearless; a risk-taker and a company that rewards pushing the envelope. Without Jobs, Apple may still maintain its momentum for a while, but eventually it becomes Apple under Sculley, Spindler and Amelio. Which Apple will enter the new era depends entirely on the as-yet unknown health of Mr. Jobs.
Oracle: For the last few years, Larry Ellison has set out to prove that the conglomerate model, historically a disaster in high tech, can be made to work. Oracle's purchase offer this week of giant Sun Microsystems is only the latest -- and biggest -- in this run of acquisitions.
Can it really absorb all of these acquisitions without, as acquisitive electronics companies have done in the past, dying of indigestion? From what I've seen so far, Ellison and Oracle have figured out a way to make it work, and have the cash to buy potentially valuable companies on the cheap.
If they can pull this off -- and I'm betting they can -- Oracle is going to emerge into the next boom as one of the biggest tech companies on the planet.
Twitter: A lot people still consider Twitter to be a novelty, just the latest tech flash in the pan. But a closer look at this new phenom shows that Twitter is a company that has yet to reach its peak -- indeed, at the moment it is the hottest company on the planet #&133; without a revenue model.
But Twitter has just such a plan in its back pocket and the management talent to execute it. Moreover, these guys aren't your usual starry-eyed young entrepreneurs; but are coolly executing their long-term plan. My bet is that Twitter is the big, break-out, Apple/Netscape/Google IPO of the next boom (assuming there still are IPOs in the age of Sarbanes-Oxley).
Android: I'll get to Google in a minute, but I'm betting that its Android smart phone platform is a huge success in the next few years. If nothing else, Apple needs its Microsoft, the open, multi-platform counterpart to Jobs' inevitably closed, Apple's way-or-the-highway strategy.