|December 26, 2002
National CEO predicts date of tech upturn
By Michael Kanellos
November 19, 2002
LAS VEGAS -- The upturn in the technology industry will be in full swing seven months
and two days from now, according to Brian Halla, chief executive officer at National
Using complex mathematical models, neural networks, historical patterns and an eye
toward current events, Halla--with a dose of Vegas showmanship--predicted in a keynote
speech at Comdex Fall 2002 on Tuesday that the tech industry will be at the apex
of a wild growth swing on June 21, 2003, primarily driven by embedding radio and
semiconductors into a wide variety of items.
"We've only scratched the surface of what semiconductors can do," he said.
"My mother will stop being ashamed of me because I am a CEO."
The playful optimism is largely based on two factors: the ability of chip manufacturers
to simultaneously shrink chips while making them more powerful, and the insatiable
need of inventors to connect their products to the Internet.
One company, for instance, is working on a pill-sized camera with a built-in radio
transmitter. When patients swallow it, images will be beamed to a hard drive. With
it, doctors could get a fairly comprehensive picture of the digestive system--in
a less intrusive manner than current procedures.
"It shoots two pictures per second for six hours. The next version will shoot
four pictures per second for 24 hours," he said. "Yes, it is disposable."
Cameras and fingerprint readers will also be embedded in cell phones, smart cards,
portable Web tablets and other devices, Halla predicted. The company is working with
Microsoft on the Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) project, Microsoft's plan
to insert Web intelligence into devices, such as clocks, that currently are not wired
to the Internet.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will unveil the first SPOT products and manufacturers
at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, Halla said. SPOT devices
will connect to the Internet wirelessly, he said, but instead of using Wi-Fi, they
will use a different, more energy-efficient technology.
So where did the June 21, 2003, date come from? National Semi asked Ahmad Bahai,
a professor at Stanford University, to apply complex mathematical models to the sharp,
recurring boom-bust cycles of the technology industry.
Once the basic boom-bust undulations were established, Bahai then fine-tuned the
data by factoring in information from the Semiconductor Industry Association, the
behavior of neural networks, and current trends, such as the growth of the technology
market in China.
Originally, the date came out at April 14, 2003, but Bahai then pushed it back after
factoring in events, such as a possible war with Iraq. Ideally, the June 21 date
will mark the exact moment when the hypothetical upturn will be accelerating at its
fastest. The boom will then peak a few years later, according to theory.
Halla stressed that the high-tech industry will recover. Consumers will gravitate
toward new technological devices, while corporations--tight budgets or no--will also
have to eventually upgrade equipment. A slight uptick in semiconductor shipments
has already begun, according to data from September, he said.
History, though, will likely repeat itself, Halla admitted.
"We will always overbuild...there will be another glut and it will be the worst
in history. We will have more predictions cranked into the equation, but we will
still screw it up," he said.
"I've already imagined where we will put the National Semiconductor medical
imaging building," he quipped, "but right now it is a parking lot."
History has also not always been kind to National Semi. The company has released
a number of prototypes of intelligent appliances over the years, yet virtually none
has gained commercial acceptance. Many analysts and executives, however, have said
that wireless networking could change that.
Sent by Pedram Moallemian
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