Phone wars have real casualties

Smart growth and smart technology are joined at the hip, and the rule in both is the same. Know what you're best at, and either lead, follow or get out of the way.

It's fun for reporters to cover battles among tech businesses and call them "wars."

But business wars also have casualties. Ask the 425 people in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park who now need new jobs following word their offices will close next year.

Sony Ericsson has been struggling for years and is now in a nosedive. (Sony and Ericsson became joint venture partners in 2001.) They have been slow to respond to the Apple iPhone, staying with the old Symbian system too long, announcing their first true "smartphone," based on Google Android, just this month.

Just as companies rise and fall in this high tech world of ours, so do cities. In this case North Carolina's loss is Atlanta's gain. (Full disclosure. I live in Atlanta.) Atlanta will now be the company's head office for North America, with all research moving to Silicon Valley. (My sister lives there.)

The battle between cities is increasingly won through specialization. This deal is a good example. Atlanta is a headquarters town where, I like to say, the salesman met the engineer at the airport. I can get to Tokyo in 15 hours by air. There's a flight nearly every hour to New York.

Similarly Silicon Valley is where the tech heads live. This hampers me in my life as a tech reporter. Doubleclick (now part of Google's ad shop) started in Atlanta, but moved within months to New York. So did Appcelerator, but they were in the Valley within a year. So it goes.

Where will the Carolinians go? Research Triangle Park has a growing medical sector. The big universities aren't disappearing. Red Hat is still around. IBM has a big presence. But most will have to adapt, or move.

It's good to look at stories like this on a blog called Smartplanet, which is all about smart growth and smart technology. Turns out they're joined at the hip, growth and technology, and the rule in both is the same. Know what you're best at, and either lead, follow or get out of the way.

One of my old Atlanta neighbors said that a lot when I first moved here. But he's gone to Montana. He got out of the way. Fortunately there's a market for that, too.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com