The Future is... Unclear

E-mail Melanie Martella

IBM just announced layoffs, Agilent is cutting 2700 jobs, and the automotive market as a whole is not at all well. And yet, some market research firms predict a nice, healthy bounce back for semiconductor sales of optoelectronics, MEMS sensors, and discrete components. Other sensor and control companies are hiring and (as far as I can tell) doing well. It's hard to know whether to believe the optimists who think economic recovery is just around the corner.

The general U.S. economy is still contracting, and for a nice, if not particularly heartening overview, MarketWatch's article "GDP revision shows 6.3% decline in fourth quarter" spells out in general terms what's happening to GDP (third largest decline since 1982), domestic demand (biggest drop since the second quarter of 1980), corporate profits (largest percentage decline since 1953), consumer spending (worst since 1980) and business investment's decline this quarter (worst since 1975).

The big semiconductor manufacturers have all taken hits, so have the automotive suppliers. And yet some companies are still holding their own. I'm ready for some good news, how about you? If your company is doing well, I want to hear about it!

Growth in Sensors
A research bulletin from IC Insights ("Return to Record Sales Seen in Opto, Sensors, and Power Discretes") predicts a return to record growth for semiconductor sales of optoelectronics, MEMS accelerometers, CMOS image sensors, and discrete devices for 2010 to 2011. MEMS-based sensors for automotive applications (stability, TPMS, and so on) should do well because of government mandates. But what about the rest? What about the small specialty sensor manufacturers? Or mid-sized automation and sensor companies? Or sensor start-ups? What are you, in the trenches, seeing and hearing? Are you hunkering down? Toughing it out? Thriving?

For me, I'm having a tough time feeling particularly bullish. The financial system is in the throes of a major reorganization. And even though the need for sensors is not going to go away any time soon, folks seem to be feeling mighty cautious about capital outlays at the moment. There's also the continuing mess of mass foreclosures to address in some constructive way ("All Boarded Up", courtesy of the New York Times makes educational yet grim reading.)

So. Your challenge, should you decide to accept it: if you've got uplifting stories, please share them. Give me your observations on how your segment of the sensors industry or the industry as a whole is doing. Cheer me up if you can!

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