The prolonged economic downturn has brought a string of bad news for the electronics industry, including just about everything from massive layoffs to the bottoming out of stock prices. But, finally, some much anticipated good news out of one of the giant chipmakers. In fact, the news is so good that Mike Hastings, marcom manager for Texas Instruments' Standard Linear and Logic Semiconductor Group, is eager to spread the word. "Last year, somebody cancelled Christmas. This year, we're seeing demand go up beyond the holidays and into first quarter of 2004," he says. To wit, TI shipped 40% more units of linear and logic devices in the third quarter of this year than it did in the last healthy quarter of 2000 before the bottom fell out of the market. Devices sold last quarter are bound for a wide variety of products ranging from cell phones to PDAs to wireless communications devices and toys. Business might be sooooo good, Hastings hints, that some customers should be worried about component availability as TI and its suppliers burn through their inventories. Yet as prices firm, there are plans afoot to keep up with demand. Mike Hayden, TI Procurement Engineering Manager, says he began working to secure silicon supplies back when demand started going up in September. Mark McGuire of Sumco, Japan's second largest silicon supplier, says that his company is adding people and equipment. KES Systems, which provides burn-in capability, is also investing in capital equipment. All of this is good news, but the big question is whether this recent surge in sales is an indication of a true recovery and, if so, how long it will last. And that appears to be anyone's guess. "I can only see out to the first quarter," says Hastings. "And right now, first quarter looks great."
As manufacturers add new technologies to their products, designing for compliance becomes more difficult. Prepare for the certification testing process. Otherwise, you increase the risk of discovering a safety issue after a product leaves the assembly line. That will cause significant time-to-market delays, be much costlier to fix, and damage your brand in the eyes of customers.
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