When there’s nothing more we need

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Part of my job is to keep an ear to the tracks, listen and then try to make some sense out of what I've heard. Editors, on all levels, function as prognosticators, attempting to piece together fragments of conversations we had with analysts or pearls of wisdom we pulled out of the stacks of related journals.

Actually, this activity is not much different from what you're doing right now; and, hopefully, you'll pull a few pearls out of these pages as you wage your contamination-control battle.

Here's a little something I picked up concerning the overall state of the semiconductor market that, I guess, really shouldn't surprise me considering the dismal last half of 2001.

If you're wondering about the job status of our good friends who practice contamination control in the semi industry, ask yourself this: When was the last time you honestly felt the need to upgrade your cell phone? Are you really maxing out your PC, or even your PDA, to the point where you truly feel the need for more speed, more gadgetry, more bang for the buck?

Over the course of 2001, electronics manufacturers heard consumers around the world collectively shout, “my current electronic systems do enough”—although I do know a few of you who would not be part of that contingent.

Here's the skinny: According to trusted semiconductor watchdog IC Insights, 2001 is the first ever negative growth year for electronics systems sales—cell phones, DVDs, PCs, etc. Last year, systems sales came in at $879 billion, a 10 percent decrease from 2000. Let me repeat, the first negative growth year ever. What's this? Consumers, especially American consumers, are satisfied with the gadgets they have? It sure looks that way. Has this affected the semi slump, forced layoffs, put every one of our readers on our semi/microelectronics circulation list on edge concerning added responsibilities and running “tighter ships?” You bet it has.

For example, at this very moment, cell phone manufacturers are scrambling to design and implement the “bells and whistles” that will drive us back to our phone dealers to upgrade to the latest and greatest gadget available. But just what could that be? Do we really need a GPS element? Increased data retrieval? We'll see how things pan out for 2002. Industry insiders, including IC Insights, have forecast a 30 percent jump in the fourth quarter of 02 over 01. I have my fingers crossed.

Quick note: For our more than 8,000 life sciences readers, this month you're being treated to what is perhaps one of our most insightful, best-targeted life sciences supplements to date. With the help of Editorial Advisory Board member Hank Rahe, the CleanRooms staff has produced a guide to understanding barrier isolation equipment, its risks and limitations—this month's must read.

Michael Levans
Chief Editor


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