From Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle in today NYTimes:
Innovation is an important new product or process, deployed on a large scale and having a significant impact on society and the economy, that can do a job “better, or cheaper, or both.” Regrettably, we now use the term to describe almost anything. It can describe a smartphone app or a social media tool; or it can describe the transistor or the blueprint for a cellphone system. The differences are immense. One type of innovation creates a handful of jobs and modest revenues; another, the type Mr. Kelly and his colleagues at Bell Labs repeatedly sought, creates millions of jobs and a long-lasting platform for society’s wealth and well-being.
The conflation of these different kinds of innovations seems to be leading us toward a belief that small groups of profit-seeking entrepreneurs turning out innovative consumer products are as effective as our innovative forebears. History does not support this belief. The teams at Bell Labs that invented the laser, transistor and solar cell were not seeking profits. They were seeking understanding. Yet in the process they created not only new products but entirely new — and lucrative — industries.
Putting aside the obvious rebuttal that large companies like Intel, Microsoft, Apple and even AT&T were once startups, the author seems to confuse “jobs” with “income streams”. For example, it would be easy to dismiss a website like Craigslist as a “social media tool” that has only created a few dozen jobs for its employees. But in fact it has created billions of dollars of income streams for people buying and selling things on its platform. The internet is increasingly reshaping our economy from one of huge corporations with lots of jobs to huge platforms with lots of income streams.