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Mid-term semiconductor forecast: be there to discover how close Penn got it

Posted by Andrew Shephard on 13th August 2014

On January 21st this year an informed gathering of semiconductor industry players and European journalists gathered in a London hotel to hear Malcolm Penn, the man who founded Dataquest, deliver his 2014 semiconductor forecast. To anyone responsible for marketing, designing, manufacturing or specifying semiconductors a reliable forecast of global market trend is critical information, so this session gets watched pretty closely.

We heard the usual, and actually quite interesting, global economic numbers pre-amble which illustrates how the world is faring generally economically. Followed by a useful breakdown of the outlook for the chip industry as a whole, then wafer capacity, a look at 450mm progress and FinFET, then some other key market issues like Makimoto’s wave, trillion transistor applications and less influential “PC market” trends.

I like Malcolm’s approach to forecasting, it’s transparent and honest. He shares all the facts and gives participants copies of most of the data so you can question him later or draw your own conclusions. Some strong opinions were shared between presenter and audience regarding European opportunity and Neelie Kroes “marching orders”, levels of FinFET availability and the internet of things. “The IoT is total b….cks” was one of Malcolm’s stronger statements I noted in the margin.

Beyond the industry and technology statistics, which can be a bit dry, I’m always surprised just how much of these sessions I actually grasp and although I’ve attended many over the years I learn something properly interesting every time. For instance in 2013 China’s contribution to world GDP was less than twice that of the UK’s 4.8%! I still struggle with that.

Anyway, in thirty days we’ll find out how well we, as a global semiconductor industry, have met Malcolm’s numbers at the mid point of that nicely justified forecast. Based on what he’s already saying the original 8% to 14% growth prediction, which was already revised up to 9.6% in May, seems to be being achieved with some ease. In January Malcolm stated the industry had “certainly survived but was yet to thrive” and honestly we all thought 8% was very bold, just six months ago. He cited threats from interest rate rises, social unrest and the removal of quantitative easing as serious stumbling blocks to the semiconductor industry’s recovery.

It will be interesting to see how his view has changed next month when we all meet again.

photo credit: huangjiahui

Andrew Shephard

Andrew’s engineering background and ‘fluff-free’ attitude combined with probably the broadest knowledge of technology installed in one PR brain ensures critical insight for Wildfire’s clients. He has driven campaigns for major forces in the semiconductor industry over 18 years including NEC Electronics, Sun Microelectronics and TSMC along with game-changing start-ups like Achronix and Nujira.