Surprise: Mary Meeker offers skepticism about U.S. tech industry

Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker offered a somewhat skeptical forecast for the U.S. tech industry. The once respected analyst lost much of her credibility in recent years, after hyping Internet stocks during the last boom and making careless errors on Facebook advertising predictions (notably, she revised her numbers upward when she found her estimates to be too bleak).

So it’s worth taking note when she turns bearish. It really means something.

Here at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, she warned of storm clouds on the horizon. There’s risk of a recession caused by the sub-prime mortgage mess (which she says has already cut U.S. GDP growth by 30 percent), and America is falling behind in per capita adoption of some next generation technologies, such as broadband and mobile payments.

She said the U.S. economy’s percentage of worldwide GDP has taken a precipitous fall, mainly due to the economic boom in Asia, good strength in Europe, but only mediocre growth in the U.S.

The good news about our flagging GDP? A recession in the U.S. is less likely to drag the rest of the world down with it. The bad news? A recession in the U.S. would severely harm the US tech industry, which is one of the brighter spots in an otherwise shaky U.S. economic environment.

Meeker was not all gloom and doom, however. She says the U.S. is experiencing strong growth in consumer technology, which is driving healthy demand for semiconductors and storage. Growth in data centers is strong.

Some large U.S. ecommerce players, such as Amazon, are experiencing accelerating growth thanks to their smart implementation of Web 2.0 technologies that help consumers help each other find new things to buy.

On the enterprise front, Meeker sees encouraging signs that we’re in the early stages of a cyclical pick up in corporate IT spending, aided by Web 2.0 technology adoption. From a related economic perspective, U.S. productivity growth – one of the most critical drivers of economic prosperity – appears to be on the upswing after several years of stagnation.

Download the PDF of Meeker’s complete 49 page presentation here

Mark Coker is a contributing writer for VentureBeat. He’s founder of Dovetail Public Relations, a Silicon Valley technology marketing firm. He has no clients among the companies mentioned in the story, nor among their competitors. See his previous stories here. More on Mark at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markcoker