Here’s a look back at my 10 biggest trends of 2012. Though the calendar has just turned the page, I believe my list will drive the global electronics industry in 2013. What's your take? Please read the article and enter your take in the comments box at the bottom.
1. Japan’s Decline
I met recently with Brian Toohey, head of the Semiconductor Industry Association. Among other things, we discussed SIA’s history and how it was formed 30 years ago in response to the competitive threat posed at the time by Japan’s semiconductor industry. Recall that Intel had recently exited the memory business (in hindsight, a brilliant move) and other chip makers like Siemens and Texas Instruments were wishing they had got out at the same time.
Fast forward 30 years and the Japanese semiconductor industry finds itself in dire straits. EE Times international correspondent Junko Yoshida has reported about the many iconic Japanese electronics that are consolidating to survive. Sharp is perhaps the weakest and but Fujitsu and Renesas also are struggling.
What happened? My analysis is that making huge bets on commodity businesses is inherently risky, and there are no more risky businesses than memory and displays. Hence, “Japan Inc.” put itself in harm’s way and underestimated the market power of Samsung and Micron.
Thirty years ago, Japanese companies were respected for their innovation and consumer marketing prowess (think Sony, Canon and Panasonic) but something happened in the 1990’s that stifled innovation and slowly asphyxiated Japan Inc. Was it simply due to the Innovators Dilemma working on a national scale? Or was the advantage provided by manufacturing excellence simply not sustainable? This is fodder for books, conferences, pundits and policy makers and would love to hear your views.
The word "Quality" has been the mantra for Japanese manufactures. Now it is getting curse for us, especially for big-name manufactures. We are very slow to adopt new technologies, because we afraid the technology might be immature / incomplete so it won't meet "Quality standard". Even if just one of hundreds functions is found to be faulty, we just NOT to adopt that technology.
Internet of Things
I think of a plan put forward by a startup here in the SF bay area.Looking at the history of the two principles helped me consider it in context.One was a graduate researcher at Stanford in robotics whose family had been farmers for generations in China.The other had been an engineering team leader for Trimble Agricultural[look into that for a nacent net-integration example].My understanding of their plan is that they aim to deploy many sensor bearing robots to characterize fields real-time fine grained-locally.Also beyond defining the fields it would include flow and application control systems.
"the difference with the 'cloud' surely is that the computer you are using does not belong to either you or your employer,"
At first, I thought you were saying that the device in your hands, or on your desk, wouldn't belong to you. Then I thought, maybe he's just talking about the processing power would be "in the cloud," and your own device would only be displaying results?
Either way, though, "the cloud" is at best an evolution of what we already know. Take something like Bittorrent. Is that not "cloud computing"? Or the way PCs can be tied together for SETI research. Or, more along the lines of my previous examples, online banking, online shopping, online language translation, streaming TV online, watching weather radar loops online, etc. etc.
All of these are examples in which the bulk of processing power you are using is on web servers, or in servers in the Internet in general. You haven't downloaded software to run locally, except at most applets.
This can only be considered cloud computing, and yet no one bothered to give it that catchy name. Now that they have, people seem to think it's something all new.
the difference with the "cloud" surely is that the computer you are using does not belong to either you or your employer, but instead to a third party that has a warehouse full of the things waiting to be used for stuff. To start with this was using spare cycles on big farms built for other purposes (eg web search engines during the hours the US was asleep etc) but more commonly now these are dedicate farms for doing such work. Making good use of that resource (and making a profit if you own that resource) are the real challenges
Kickstarter could be a very valuable addition to the world of start-up finance. It has the potential to fit in a nice spot between family money and angel investors. But, very shortly, it will become a clear example of why investors require business plans and people with the knowledge to execute those plans.
I'm not a huge fan of the VC world, but it is necessary and some of what it does makes sense. The diligence that VCs do before investing weeds out a lot of businesses that have no chance of making it. Even with a goo market, plan and team, the odds are long against success.
Kickstarter needs to solve a few problems if it wants to last beyond 2013. As it is, a few high profile cases like the Pebble watch will make people wary. Then the scammers and opportunists will jump in and KS will join the long list of over-hyped great ideas with incomplete execution.
They've tried to clean up a little bit with some of the new rules, but I don't think that will be enough.
Seems like a purely Western vision of history. Surely, China had many centuries when it was supreme, from its point of view. As to its rise, all it would take is another "cultural revolution" to stop its progress tout de suite.
As to the "cloud," even without harking back to the days of X.25 nets, what about the WWW, beginning ca. 1994, was NOT a "cloud"? How long have we been doing "cloud computing" before it was called that? Turbo tax, for instance? Web-based e-mail?
These catchy words are used to generate enthusiasm, to spur any number of academic symposia (publish or persish), and to help foster grants for research. But this is EE Times. We need to be able to see beyond the flash, no?
The comment that Japan and China are simply evolving just as the U.S. and Europe did belies a complete misunderstanding of history and culture. The 19th century belonged to the UK and Europe. The 20th to the US. Both are now in decline. China and India (and its predecessors) dominated the first and second millennium and are returning to power. There was no Japanese century. Japanese demographics are catastrophic and nothing like the west. Japan is in an inexorable decline, China is in an inexorable rise. And to say China (population 1.3B) is following the same the same path as Japan (population 0.15B) is silly.
Furthermore, the cloud isn't hype at all. It is an old idea, redeployed and an idea whose time has come. Genius is not in the novelty or newness of an idea but the deployment and timing.
And the same happened to European and US consumer electronics industries. What survives is mostly the super high end industry in this area, while the mass market equipment, whose brand names everyone recognizes, has to go to the lowest cost manufacturing countries.