The tech headlines these days are a dreary drumbeat of mostly bad news.
Intel announced this month it is laying off 12,000 workers worldwide. Dell Inc. cut 10,000 jobs last fiscal year. Advanced Micro Devices said late last year it would lay off 500 workers.
Other major tech employers are battling sinking revenues, smaller profits and disappointed investors, sending their stock prices spiraling downward.
Apple Inc. for the first time in 13 years reported a drop in quarterly revenue, mostly thanks to slowing iPhone sales. Its stock price is down 11 percent since Monday.
This wasn't an isolated incident. Twitter, Alphabet (Google's parent company), EMC Corp. and Microsoft all had disappointing earnings in recent weeks.
Austin tech companies aren’t immune. National Instruments warned this month that it expected sales in the first quarter to be lower than expected.
Nearly every local chipmaker, from Cirrus Logic to Silicon Labs to AMD, has recently reported falling sales or profit compared to a year ago.
After listening in on a slew of earnings calls last week from tech firms reporting falling revenue numbers, I wondered if this pattern signified something bigger.
Could these companies be bellwethers of a global economic meltdown? Previous recessions have often coincided with a pull-back on technology spending.
Or is this the after-shocks of an industry undergoing a major technological transformation? After all, tech is famous for its boom-and-bust cycles. (Remember Web 1.0?)
I interviewed several industry analysts and economists to find out.
They said it isn’t one or the other.
What happens in China doesn’t stay in China
To understand what’s going on in tech, a good place to start is China.
Most major tech employers have a global customer base, and that means a lot of their sales come from China, which has a population more than four times that of the United States.
So it was bad news when China reported economic growth of nearly 7 percent last year.
For most countries, if their economy grew 7 percent it would be celebrated. But for fast-growing China it's a major economic slowdown.
"We're in a near global recession," said Patrick Moorhead, an industry analyst who runs Moor Insights and Strategy. "Just not in the United States."
Tara Sinclair, a visiting economics professor at the University of Texas, agrees.
"This is less about the U.S. economy and much more about the global economy," she said. "The U.S. market has been fairly well penetrated."
Many still-developing countries are where tech firms see the growth opportunities.
"When their economies stumble a little bit, they are not going to be buying U.S. products and particularly not going to be acquiring U.S. products if their economy isn't strong," Sinclair said.
Another factor is the strong U.S. dollar, a problem for tech companies because it makes their products more expensive outside the United States. This doesn’t inspire people to buy things.
It's not just tech companies that sell directly to consumers, like Apple, that suffer in this environment. Their suppliers - like chipmakers - are just as affected.
And for companies like Dell or EMC, whose growth plans center around convincing businesses to buy their products, economic conditions wield a big influence on their bottom line.
“Spending on IT is directly related to how an economy is doing,” Moorhead said.
A weakened global economy isn’t the only thing that ails tech companies.
Tech firms are being disrupted by, ironically, new technology.
For starters, PC sales have been on the decline for years. Just this past quarter PC shipments fell 11.5 percent year-over-year, according to tech industry research firm International Data Corporation.
Even though this isn't exactly breaking news, it is taking years for some tech firms - looking at you, AMD - whose fortunes were tied to PCs to find a revenue replacement.
Another problem is that many products that tech firms thought would act as PC replacements - namely tablets and smartphones - are also not exactly setting the tech world on fire right now.
In the first quarter, tablet shipments declined 14.7 percent, according to IDC.
Smartphone growth was flat in the fourth quarter, IDC says, partially because of "smartphone saturation" in many markets. Apple says its iPhone sales may continue to decline.
The problem is that potential new revenue streams -- be it from cloud computing, the Internet of Things or virtual reality -- aren't bringing in enough money to cover the revenue being lost from older innovations.
Take a company like Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. Like so many other tech firms, data storage giant EMC is reporting declining sales and its profits are below what analysts expected.
That’s because cloud computing is disrupting how companies store data. Companies are choosing to rent space from public cloud providers, such as Amazon, rather than buy servers from companies like EMC.
"What's happening is they are not able to fill the cloud basket at the same rate as they are losing business," Moorhead explained. "That's happening with IBM, that's happening with Dell, that's happening all over."
As a result, tech firms are conducting layoffs or consolidating.
Industry analyst Roger Kay says innovations like cloud computing have created a fundamental shift in how we interact with technology. But he said it’s really the collision of changing consumer demand -- i.e. fewer PC sales -- and disruptive technologies that have made this bleak moment in tech possible.
"It's a transformation, but not a single transformation, " Kay said. "It's really the whole lot of them."
The good news for tech workers and investors is that analysts like Kay see this as temporary -- just a momentary glitch while the tech industry makes the leap from one set of innovations to the next.
Unlike, say, the news industry.