SAN JOSE, Calif.--Amid a growing wave of discontent concerning the Semicon West trade show, the annual chip-equipment event will consolidate from two venues into one site in San Francisco starting in 2005, according to the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) trade group on Thursday (May 27).
For years, Semicon West, the world's largest chip-equipment trade show, has been held in two locations. The front-end equipment portion of the show has been held in San Francisco, while the assembly and test sectors have been featured in San Jose, Calif.
In 2004, the event will continue to be held in two locations--San Francisco and San Jose. "In 2005, we are re-unifying the event into San Francisco," according to a spokesman for SEMI of San Jose. After speaking to the SEMI spokesman on Thursday afternoon, the trade organization issued a release later that day.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the event has been held in Moscone Center. Reunification of the exposition in a single venue location became possible when exhibit and meeting facilities were expanded at the Moscone Center in San Francisco last year. The Moscone West wing added 300,000-sqare-feet of exhibit space to the existing 600,000-squre-feet in Moscone North and South Halls, according to SEMI.
"Unifying the exposition will provide greater value for visitors and exhibitors," said Vicki Hadfield, president of SEMI North America, in a statement. "The San Jose venue provided an efficient and hospitable interim solution. However, it was never desirable to host a split event. Reuniting Semicon West allows attendees to visit a single integrated venue and use their time more productively. It also provides exhibitors with access to a concentrated community of attendees."
Observers applauded the decision, but some are still asking a major question: Is there a real need for Semicon West in the first place?
In the 1970s and 1980s, Semicon West was the place to do business. Before the age of e-mail, the Internet, and business-to-business marketing, chip makers were known to cut huge procurement deals with vendors in the glory days of event. And chip makers brought what seemed like a gaggle of fab-tool buyers and high-level deal makers in those days.
Today, though the show remains the place to be for many vendors, Novellus, Varian, and a few other suppliers have stopped exhibiting at the event for cost reasons. Booth space is expensive and not worth it, some vendors claim. Instead, these vendors utilize suites near the conference center in order to talk to customers.
Simply put, the business-oriented climate of Semicon West has changed--if not diminished. Procurement deals are few and far between at the show, while the past downturn has drastically reduced travel budgets. As a result, fewer equipment buyers attend the event, according to analysts.
And the days of buying a fab tool off the show floor are gone. "The days when an engineer goes to Semicon West and comes across something new are long over," according to one executive at a major equipment supplier. "But the publicity is useful."
Semicon West enables "lots of product announcements. Of course, they won't be news to our customers. If we ever surprised a customer with a product announcement, I think we'd shoot ourselves," according to the executive.
Valerie Grib, marketing manager of strategic operations at metrology-equipment supplier ADE Corp., has a completely different viewpoint. Grib believes that Semicon West is still a required event for vendors, because "it brings everyone together" under one roof to discuss the issues in the semiconductor industry.
Stewart Chalmers, president and CEO of Positio Public Relations Inc., indicated that economic conditions dictate the overall mood about Semicon West. The public relations executive believes the grumbling among companies about Semicon West started during the past and horrific IC downturn.
Amid the current recovery, however, Semicon West is making its way back into the limelight. "It will come back," Chalmers said.
Semicon West was launched by SEMI in 1971 at the San Mateo County Expo Center, where it was held through 1991. The exposition was relocated to the San Francisco in 1992 and eventually outgrew the available space there.
SEMI then expanded the event to occupy additional exhibit facilities in San Jose in 1997, at which time the exposition was segmented by product type. Wafer processing exhibits and programs occur in San Francisco and final manufacturing is held in San Jose.
Meanwhile, Semicon West 2005 will maintain exhibit segmentation. Final manufacturing will be located in the new Moscone West facility, which will also house exposition keynotes and technical programs on the third floor. Wafer processing will remain in the North, South and Gateway Halls.
"There are a significant number of companies that have interest and products in both the wafer processing and final manufacturing exposition segments. Many currently choose to exhibit in only one venue, while about 70 exhibiting companies will have booths in both the San Francisco and San Jose venues this year," said Hadfield.
The 34th edition of Semicon West occurs July 12-16, 2004. Semicon West 2005 events will span the week of July 11-15, 2005, with the product exhibition occuring from July 12-14.