Solar shines in Frisco

Nashua, NH--Semicon West 2009 and InterSolar North America, were held last week in San Francisco, Calif. To this observer attendance seemed to be very slow except for the Solar Pavilion, which was busy all week. The exhibit space for this section doubled from last year and occupied the entire West Wing. Solar exhibitors seemed to be divided about 1/3 German, 1/3 Chinese, 1/3 other.

Wednesday appeared to be the busiest attendance day, as might be expected, but potential buyer ranks seemed to be thinned by lots of people walking around with resumes--as one can imagine with a 12% unemployment rate in California. This state was in the throes of trying to balance a $25 billion budget shortfall and the potential fallout from this put a damper on some expectations. One indicator--there were absolutely no lines at any of the bars or restaurants around the Moscone Center, where the shows were located. Many local businesses were closed down too with the surviving ones having special 'deals' in order to attract customers.

The laser industry was lightly represented in both booth space and in the number of laser industry people observed walking the show. Of the few laser companies exhibiting, many were in the Solar Pavilion. One member of the laser community had the busiest booth at the show (South Hall) marking pens, with a line of people almost non-stop, but it is unclear how much business 'free pens' will generate. Otherwise, the few laser related companies exhibiting were mostly on the applications end.

Still, there are some general signs of things coming back. Many people this observer talked too said the period January-May was especially tough business-wise, but that orders are starting to pick up. Anyone who has been in the semiconductor industry knows about the 'ups and downs' and plans accordingly for the dips. Capital is expected to start flowing again in mid-2010.

Ronald D. Schaeffer

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