The morning after pill

Posted: 01.12.12

Did you ever wake up the morning after having had too much fun the night before and wonder if anyone got the license plate of the truck that ran over you? Everyone has, even if they won’t admit it.

Well 2011 was like that for a lot of folks. After the melt down in 2009, 2011 was a lot like stone skipping only to end up with a deadening and disappointing plop. I haven’t heard anyone say they’ll miss it.

It’s been wose than partying all year and then having to pay the piper. Instead, it was a kind of okay year until it wasn’t and we still get the hangover.

The good news? Well, growth managed to stay positive, even if only low single digit.

In other news, Disk drives took a dive; they got soaked in the Indonsian floods, and that had a ripple effect. Flash drives, the obvious replacement choice, are still too expensive and there’s not enough supply to fill the spinner’s void.

Major new GPU releases were also kind of MIA, with no major announcements, and the ones that get introduced got a ho-hum reception from stressed-out and consumption-weary buyers. Even if the disk supply chain hadn’t dried up, or rather gotten soaked, and the processors were just more of the same, it’s unlikely the consumers or enterprise were going to go on a spending spree. There was just too much depressing news about the economy worldwide.

Who can get enthusiastic about a new 60-inch 3D TV with that kind of a background? Certainly not investors or VCs. The IPO market all but vanished in 2011, and share prices on the established companies got whip-sawed by panic from the European crises compounded by too few traders using too many computers to make trades that kept the stock market on a roller coaster ride.

And now it’s the morning of 2012. The stock market is up. CES is in full swing, and folks in general seem in good, if shaken spirits. There were some hard lessons learned in 2011. For one thing the vulnerability of concentrated sources in the supply chain has been exposed (again), as the Foxcon fire and the Earthquake/Tsunami in Japan did before.

Manufacturers are taking a hard look at their supply lines. Especially manufacturers in Japan. This isn’t the first time natural disasters have affected Japan’s plants.

On the other hand, in some markets there might be a lot of talk and no real change. The capital investment needed for some kinds of manufacturing can be pretty challenging. Those who would stop up have to meet the volume demands and that takes money. Unfortunately, the capital markets are in the bomb shelters right now. They don’t know what to do. In many cases, they’re not doing anything. Since no second source mega-sized suppliers are going to show up in the near future, manufacturers will just tip-toe around this issue and pretend it didn’t happen—you know, morning after behavior.


What the industry needs is a morning after pill. The over dependency on New and Improved needs to be thought out ... again. The ridiculous bragging about Brazil and China’s explosive growth needs to be tempered with reality—they’re still not big enough to replace the loss of the US or Europe as growth markets. But you know how it is when you’ve had one too many: reason and fear fade away and bravado takes hold—you think you’re better than you are. And then either someone shows you you’re not, or you wake up and say, what the hell was I thinking of?

In 2011 we weren’t as smart, powerful, fast, or clever as we thought we were or could be.

Now we move into 2012 and Ultra­books, smartphones, and tablets are our new shiny things. The things that will inject adrenaline into the industry, wake up the consumers, and maybe even cause the overly cautious enterprise to buy something other than servers and talk about the cloud. Not likely, but we can hope.

I’m looking forward to NFC and never having to put a card into a turnstile, or an ATM—“It’s me, don’t you recognize me? Don’t make me take out my wallet you stupid machine.”

Everyone knows I’m really looking forward to S3D. I may never leave home again.

And, as you read in this issue, we’ve been having a lot of fun playing with our new toys.

So the morning after has promise, as all mornings usually do. Let’s celebrate the new year, CES, and the splendors’ of the modern age.

Happy New Year!