I have so many excuses for not posting over the last few weeks – consulting deadlines and a new baby to name, too. But ultimately, I think the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan gave me great long pauses to just sit and ponder. News of the unfolding disaster moved me, but not to write. Just to think. And more often than not, I sat transfixed by the resolve of the people of Japan.
Photo credit: Glenn Sundeen
The unfolding situation in Japan offered myriad stories and opportunities, but I felt I could offer so little in the face of what was happening that I left this for those either more qualified or more connected. And at times, when I watched the news too long, I just had to turn away. As someone not trained in journalism and unhardened by a career in the field, it was often too shocking to really consider what was actually happening on the ground.
Not to mention that the news and occasional analysis along with the usual overwhelming volume of pure speculation left me feeling like enough was enough. However, Junko Yoshida’s A-Team came through this week with a truly insightful while at the same time thoughtful and sensitive special issue on Japan
. With that on readers' screens, I feel it's safe now to move forward.
There are cold, hard business reasons for the technology industry to pay close attention to Japan in the months and years to come. But there is more to it. I think even for those of us in the industry who don't have some sort of personal connection to the country, Japan holds a special place of honor to all techies in our gadget-crazy world.
So the natural disasters created an unnatural confluence of mainstream media interest and technophiles hoping to understand the impact on the global electronics supply chain. Thinking about that may seem insignificant in the face of the impact of the disaster on real people, but at least it seems more critical than discussing other news of the last month like the launch of the iPad 2. As someone who spends time considering the industry’s move to the fabless model, I found Brian Fuller’s audio conversation with Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons (link embedded in Dylan McGrath’s great piece on fab impact on page 46 of the EE Times Special Digital Edition
) was time well spent.
Supply chain issues are bound to bring focus back to a new Apple product rumored to be facing supply problems due to voracious consumer demand even before the earthquake and rolling blackouts created interruptions to Japanese electronics and semiconductor production. A few commentators expect interruption at several Japanese factories to create supply problems
for Apple at this critical stage of their newest product.
In a story related to iPads but not so much Japan, Applied Materials commented on demand for 200mm wafer production tools at its analyst day on March 23. As reported at ElectroIQ
, tablet computers are one source of demand for 200mm production capability. In fact, the AMAT team speculated that 75% of the iPad chips are built on 200mm wafers. And they also noted that a full 200mm wafer is about how much silicon is required in the control electronics for each electric vehicle to hit the road. No wonder our industry is so excited about alternative energy and the like. Add up battery management, windmill controls, inverter electronics, and even the solar panels themselves, and we could be looking at a real "more than Moore" boom.
And Japan may itself become more focused on alternative energy as it has faced down the possibility of a nuclear crisis. Despite predictions from atomic energy opponents of reactor core meltdowns and impending human catastrophe, the final outcome of damage to the Fukushima Daiichi power station and the race to repair it will not be known for some time. But as that story unfolds, who would have ever questioned that Japan would produce a group of bona fide heroes – real life engineers and technicians – who would keep their posts and face imminent danger to protect their neighbors and countrymen?