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What awaits the electronics industry this 2016?

Posted: 04 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Nvidia? notebook? smartphone? tablet? Internet of Things?

There WILL be changes expected for the semiconductor industry this year, that much is true. Big layoffs are a given this 2016. Avago has a slash-and-burn reputation for how it handled LSI and other acquisitions. I predict the new Broadcom will be a leaner, meaner machine.

Avago/Broadcom was just one of the many, many M&A deals of 2015 that will offer Wall Street a burnt sacrifice of 'synergies' in the coming year in the pursuit of bigger profits. Expect an ongoing body count as the electronics industry settles into its golden years single-digit growth.

I see no next big thing in my crystal ball. That's a bit scary.

I started covering this industry when the 80386 was a rocket rising out of Santa Clara in the late 1980's. From those days until now there has always been a single, definable engine of growth, the desktop PC, the notebook, the smartphone, the tablet. All of those big markets will carry on, but none will bring much growth in the coming year.

Some people will claim virtual and augmented reality will be the next big thing in the run up to the debut of a handful of major platforms in the spring. But by fall the heat will start to fade as consumers, chilled by their high price tags and underwhelming performance, give a pass on them as gifts for Xmas 2016.

So as all eyes increasingly turn to the Internet of Things (IoT), I predict we will exit next year with a new scepticism about IoT. Common wisdom will catch up with the e-intelligensia in realising IoT is not the next big thing. It is 27 new things and a bunch of old things we used to call embedded, all blended together into a marketing smoothie that's easy to talk about and hard to take to the bank.

IoT is all about two-dollar processors with fifty cents worth of memory wrapped around a lot of power- and penny-pinching software and services. IoT will seep digital technology slowly into many former analogue markets, but they will not lead to a single, big gold mine and certainly not to the next PC, smartphone or tablet.

Speaking of mining, those analytics engines the Web giants are using to mine big data for gold will continue to look like the digital equivalent of fracking. So, the volume will get turned up on the calls for privacy and security, another easy call as my crystal ball flickers.

OK, crystal ball, give me something positive before you completely run out of juice.

How about this: Engineers will make several key advances in the 10nm node, 3D chip stacks and systems-in-package. Such core capabilities will result in a string of really great chips including Apple's next A-series SoC, Nvidia's Pascal graphics processor and an Intel/Altera accelerator for servers.

Despite the costs and challenges, engineers will continue to turn the crank meaningfully toward Moore's Law. But that's another easy prediction.

Finally, despite the disruption the Internet has brought to the publishing industry, a historic shift dogging every publication from the New York Times on down, EE Times will continue to write about all these things and many more.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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