Interesting Business Week article on the just ended decade. Like everyone else they think it was awful. But point out that in terms of the economy maybe the brightest light was Apple. Hard to argue with that assessment.

From what many believe was permanent decline at the start of the decade to iTunes, iPod, iPhone and reinvigoration of the iMac, Apple has had a terrific decade. The iPod changed an industry – music – forever. A quarter of a billion iPods sold and eight billion songs sold on iTunes. The flip side, music sales – mainly CDs – from $39 billion in 1999 to less than $18 billion in 2009. More than 100,000 software applications so far developed for the iPhone, revolutionizing another industry – telecommunications.

Apple may well be the model for economic growth in America going forward. But it sure is a fundamentally different model than last century. From dominating an industry to constant reinvention into new industries, from stability to agility, from making things to inventing and selling things, from hundreds of thousands of employees to tens of thousands, from selling at home to customers world wide.

And, most fundamentally, employing human minds not their muscle. Many believe American economic growth going forward needs to be export based. An economy no longer based on American consumers buying on credit or financial engineering that so dominated the last expansion. But if we are to become an export power, Apple will be the model. It manufactures almost none of its products in the US. Rather it adds value by its skills as one of the best at both pre production (R&D, engineering, design) and post production (sales and marketing). Its the new face of “making things” for global consumers: one with little or no American factory workers.

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