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Looking Forward: Holiday sales, next-gen and recovery – Can we have it all?


While consumers are only just starting to turn thoughts to holiday purchases and lists, we, of course, have been long busy getting ready for this push (see this short preview from cnet).  The looming question is as we look forward what do analysts and forecasters see in their sector-crystal balls and how might our industry's R&D road maps line up with demand and macro-economic conditions?

Firstly, let's just see what is going on: smartphones, tablet PCs and eReaders are just plain HOT.  These devices, except for eReaders at this time, are no longer the domain of consumer electronics alone, they are squarely in the enterprise market and that is good for our industry in general, although some individual OEMs may face trouble (cf. this recent video report by CNN). With pre-sales of Apple's iPhone 4S already reaching new heights, with first day sales reported by Apple to have topped one million thanks to an increase in carriers and first release countries, according to this Huffington Post article.  The Android market continues to do well also, with new phones having been and set to be released by various OEMs as the holiday season heats up, such as HTC's Rhyme reviewd by cnet here, Samsung's GalaxyS series, and Motorola's Droid series, to name just three of many.


All good news, right?  Well, there's the ultrabook, tabletPC and eReader competition also heating up by the respective, major OEMs and, importantly, paired with or named by content providers, especially in the case of the eReader category.  Why make note of this eReader naming?  Well, it references a critical element not just in staying tuned in to where demand is and will most certainly continue to come from, but also where the critical innovative pushes need to focus for our industry.

Content and hardware are not really distinguished by users, whether consumers or enterprise users.  This trend is one we've been discussing for years in the semiconductor and electronics industry, as well as at Smith's MarketWatch from this 2010 report on to the latest FinFet report here.  It is interesting, to be sure, but it is also a fundamental shift in how we are now (finally) designing and building the next generation of components that will be the crux of how demanded functionality will be delivered via successful devices to an ever discriminating and frugal consumer, whether for personal or business use.

Finally, economic forecasts are calling out stability over double-dip, particularly after the recent positive data from the US and collaborative EU moves to support banks and sovereign debt issues, at least we are hopeful that the economic situation will not worsen.  Let's just hedge our bets there for now!  This means that the market confidence should continue to gain, albeit slowly, and we hope that consumers will feel more secure that things will not worsen, at least.  With that very  modest positive position, and the lure of new devices which are further commoditized and moving 'smart to becoming average,' there are good signs that 4Q11 will deliver its cyclical promises.

As we move our sights toward 2012, the dominant picture for components that are set to meet and prick demands are truly centered around innovation as well.  The system-on-chip (SoC) continues to mature with multicore technology (see this early 2011 article from MarketWatch Commentary), such as with FPGAs by Altera, and the advances gained from thin film layering for memristors for new memory solutions by HP, HP-Hynix as reported by EETimes and here in our recent MarketWatch Commentary, and by Samsung as reported here by Memristor.  Beyond these chip designs we also are in the midst of the switch to 450 mm wafers which also brings with it the appropriate tide and timing for other design changes.  Will the through-silicon-vias (TSVs) finally find a design-in market opportunity, as this EETimes article considers alongside of the still emergent 3-D stacking.

Why then is the eReader branding of interest in this discussion?  It's about content.  Content is king, as many an OEM knows quite well in the ever-competitive landscape with Apple and Android.  Without the ability to deliver a healthy swath of content that can satisfy a dizzying breadth of consumers and enterprise users as they flitter from personal to professional tasks, there is no long-term strategy (see this media tablet sector report from iSuppli).  As such, the melding and component level design of software and hardware together, the design-in at middleware, is an essential piece of the next generation landscape.  Beyond size, weight and power/energy efficiency, to be competitive is to be integrated to, well, to the core.  This exciting challenge will also bring new functionality and feature sets to devices, something that should also breathe excitement into demand frugal consumers.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:32 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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