It's hard to know what to make of a year as it's still winding down. Here, we scramble to close everything out with a leaner and meaner and vacationing staff, a thin news month and holiday wishes galore coming in by snail mail (TI's Gene Franz sent candy canes).
Certainly, 2006 went by in a blur. If you missed it, we recap the biggest news of the year starting on page 1, through both the eyes of our editors and the votes of our online audience, which chose the top stories with their mouse clicks.
It's my not-so-humble opinion that 2006 will be considered a watershed year--the year we all realized this is not your father's electronics industry. Maturation and consolidation may be givens, but two data points last week suggested other changes as well.
First, Maxim Integrated Circuits founder Jack Gifford--who, as far as I can tell, never slowed for a moment his entire career--decided to retire. Doctor's orders, we're told. But one wonders whether the unbearable heaviness of running a technology company in the burst-bubble world just ain't worth the bother.
Second, Michael Malone wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal that stitched together the HP spying scandal, the Dow's record high and Google's acquisition of YouTube into a troubling take on the state of the technology business. The reason you're not seeing a lot of IPOs in a record stock market, Malone wrote, is that the regulations put in place after a few bad apples spoiled the barrel (Sarbanes-Oxley and, more recently, the attacks on stock options) are killing the business.
Today, the United States can't manufacture competitively on a mass scale, but the "service economy" is a recipe for generations of economic misery in world where smart and hungry countries like India and China are flexing their muscles. So today has to be about intellectual property and entrepreneurial spirit. This country innovates better than anyone, but our government is on the verge of extinguishing that flame.
In an environment of increasingly intense international competition, one has to ask whether America can afford not to stoke the culture of entrepreneurship that produced guys like Jack Gifford.