Electronica in Munich felt like a success. It was crowded -- even though long-time observers felt that were fewer attendees than last time -- and companies which had come to the show with a long list of booked customer meetings believed their time was well spent.
Yet the virtual elephant in the room was the economy. In the United States, we've all been feeling a bit more confident recently. However, in Europe, the dire situation of Greece is striking fear into the wallets of all Common Market countries
"We should have stayed with our own currency," a German woman remarked to me at Electronica. She was giving props to England, which joined the European Community, but stuck with the pound Sterling as its currency. (Me, I found my U.S. greenbacks to be pretty much worthless. 100 Euros went as quickly as $20 American, and bought about as little.)
Europe's malaise is also stanching the powerful impetus towards an upswing in the United States. Throughout 2012, there's been a strong desire to invest domestically, and I believe that would be gaining traction, but has been slowed by the Debby Downer economic story coming out of Europe.
So how does one unravel such confused, mixed-messaging? To get some clarity, I went to Steve Wainwright, General Manager, EMEA, for Freescale Semiconductor. "If you believe in history, the next quarter should be up," he said. "If you listen to people at the show [Electronica}, it's pretty mixed. I would say, in general, we've been pretty impressed with customer confidence."
After six quarters of semiconductor misery, Wainwright says that "Christmas is going to be very telling for us. It will be interesting to see what lift the industry gets from the consumer sector. " Fortunately, he sees the industrial sector proceeding apace, "We've seen an interesting trend in design-win strength in the last two or three years, even though it's a turbulent market," Wainwright said.
For more of one of the most balanced market assessments I've heard in many months, watch the brief interview we shot at Electronica:
The economy is cyclical, technology is not. The key is to just keep innovating, because eventually, the fog will lift and people will expect these companies to have still been pushing the limits. There's a lot to be said for innovating your way out of a crisis
Steve's comment about poor visibility is key: We've had poor visibility for at least four years. Part of that is macro-economic; but the other more important part is there are no killer apps and may never be. But there are millions and millions of little apps--in the internet of things--that propel the industry forward. Much of that innovation comes from non-traditional customers, I'd suspect, who are now realizing the power of embedded systems to transform whatever they do. That's a good thing.