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'Tech bubble' will be one debate at Code Conference

From left: Sergey Brin, Dick Costolo, Ryan Seacrest
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From left: Sergey Brin, Dick Costolo, Ryan Seacrest

There's going to be a lot of deja vu at this year's Code Conference, put on by our partners at Re/code.

Anyone who attended the groundbreaking D: All Things Digital conferences over the past 11 years will recognize the high-powered lineup of senior executives. And the conversations about the impact of technology on our daily lives might seem familiar. But looming over this inaugural event is the shadow of another recognizable tech world presence: A possible bubble in tech valuations.

Analysts and economists have been debating with increasing urgency whether the tech world—and the market in general—is expanding too rapidly, setting itself up for a severe contraction.

Bert Dohmen, president and founder of Los Angeles-based Dohmen Capital Research Institute, tells CNBC he's worried about the parallels between the recent surge in M&A activity and similar buildups that occurred in 1999-2000, and in 2007-2008, each of which preceded market crashes.

"It's too exuberant," he said. "When companies have too much cash, they do not spend it wisely. Companies don't care about value anymore, all they care about making is deals."

Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, chief investment officer for Goldman Sachs' investment strategy group, takes a contrary view, however, saying in January "we don't have bubble troubles yet."

Whether we're in a bubble or not will certainly be among the topics of discussion at the Code Conference, but it won't be the primary focus. With a speaker lineup that's a who's who of business leaders, Re/code co-executive editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher will have the opportunity to explore the latest advances in a variety of industries.

The conference, held in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, has long been sold out, but both CNBC and Re/code will regularly post news and videos from the talks. While mobile will certainly be a focus, as always, the speaker lineup indicates the discussions will also explore entertainment, social media and new trends in consumer technology.


All totaled, the conference will host 22 executives. Among the highlights:

Satya Nadella—Microsoft's new CEO will undergo his most public interview to date, addressing where he plans to take the software giant and the struggles the company currently faces. Nadella wasted no time in making changes when he took over Microsoft, introducing an iOS version of Microsoft Office, making major changes to the company's mobile strategy and reorganizing the executive ranks. And investors are curious about what he has planned next.

Reed Hastings—The CEO of Netflix has upended the video content world with over-the-top series like "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black." He has also been one of the most outspoken critics of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger—which should be especially interesting at the Code Conference, as Comcast CEO Brian Roberts will also be in attendance. Always outspoken, expect Hastings to have some interesting and possibly controversial thoughts on the future of online video programming.

Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue—These longtime Apple veterans might not have the name recognition of Tim Cook, but between them, they've had a hand in creating everything from iOS to Siri to the iTunes store. Expect plenty of discussion about everything from the entertainment landscape to wearable technology.

Doug McMillonWal-Mart's CEO will be one of the first big retailers to appear at one of Mossberg and Swisher's conferences. He'll likely focus on how the leader in the brick-and-mortar retail world plans to adapt to an increasingly digital commercial landscape.

Jimmy Iovine and Ian Rogers—The two senior executives at Beats have been instrumental in the digital evolution of music. But what many attendees will be most curious to hear about is whether the reports of a $3.2 billion buyout by Apple are true.

And that's just a sampling of the speakers to expect. Other featured guests include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Nest co-founder and CEO Tony Fadell, Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston and BlackBerry CEO John Chen. Heck, even Ryan Seacrest will be on hand.

The three-day conference kicks off on May 27.

Disclosure: NBC News group is a minority stakeholder in Re/code and has a content sharing partnership with it.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

—By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.

Update: After this story was published, GM CEO Mary Barra cancelled her planned appearance. No reason was disclosed.

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