02 December 2005

Wireless, Consumer Products Continue to Drive Semiconductor Industry

That's the title of an email I received from In-Stat Research, and I'm mightily tempted to post it whole, except I would be wasting everyone's time if I did. How do I know In-Stat's motives for publishing this claim? I grew up reading my dad's copies of Forbes & Fortune, and later learned the complex array of preconceived notions that business magazines are quite zealous about promoting. One of these is industry "research" as industry boosterism; to see what I mean, just look in the business section of your local paper.
In-Stat: Buoyed by fast-growing new technologies in the wireless, broadband equipment, and consumer electronics arenas, the semiconductor industry will continue strong growth this decade after the lean years of 2001 and 2002... Some of the fastest-growing silicon categories include wireless cellular modems (2.5 million units shipped in 2004 to 14.6 million units in 2009), wireless LAN chipsets (84 million units shipped in 2004 to 390 million units in 2009), and digital TV sets (16.5 million units shipped in 2004 to 93.8 million units in 2009).
In other words, modems on laptops are supposed to grow by 42% annually, wireless LAN chipsets are supposed to grow 36% annually. I was thunderstruck by the notion that a market for exist for such a huge number of wireless LAN chipsets until I read that Gartner reports that sales of notebook computers reached 55 million in a single quarter (Q3 2005). So it seems the authors of the In-Stat study factored in some other assumptions:
  1. the desktop PC is going to be phased out in favor of laptops
  2. laptops, therefore, will expand both into the "sales space" presently occupied by PCs, and into a growing demand for data processing in services and as a home entertainment vehicle
  3. the rise of what I call "intimate computing" will actually create a personal pattern of owning multiple computers, each with a dedicated household function (much the way my own very modest household has six-six!-CD players, plus the ones my wife and I use at our jobs).
  4. All of these will ultimately be connected to a LAN
  5. Ultimately, LAN-internet will be the delivery system for all electronic data and information, from playbacks of movies to telephony, to news, bill payment and customer service,.. etc.
Seen from this angle, the prospect of every man, woman, and child in the OECD getting a wireless chipset every three years, and the entire human population of China doing so every ten, is not as farfetched as I had initially imagined.

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