May You Live In Interesting Times

This was a difficult year for many. Due to a global economy that has slowed to a crawl (except in China), some are homeless, many are jobless, and most are cautious about tomorrow. This particular part of the year is of great importance to those in retail electronics and consumer electronics markets because of the traditional consumer spending and the large spike in retail sales spurred by the holidays.

Even as consumers struggle to make ends meet, consumer electronics companies count on their holiday spending, on such things as large-screen televisions or "smart" cell phones. In fact, cellular service providers are already touting the benefits of their fourth-generation (4G) networks, even as they are being erected.

The RF/microwave industry is not the same as the consumer electronics industry, except for a small number of semiconductor companies that play in markets related to consumers, such as wireless handsets. Those companies will feel the rise and fall of consumer spending on electronics more than the majority of companies in this industry. Most smaller RF/microwave companies are insulated from fickle consumer spending. They are more reliant on commercial, industrial, medical, military, and even automotive markets, which are based less on "impulse" buying.

Consumer electronics companies that are public often make noise about their sales, while pointing to the slow but steady growth of RF/ microwave markets as unexciting. But these same consumer electronics companies face pressures unknown to smaller RF companies, such as having to drop prices by 30 percent to remain competitive.

Companies in the RF/microwave industry face pricing pressures, but never as severe as those in consumer electronics markets. And most companies in this industry, save those earlier-mentioned semiconductor companies, could never meet the volumes and prices needed to compete in consumer electronics markets. Nor would they want to do so. There is a certain comfort level in working with a smaller number of customers and striving to meet the specific needs of each one.

In spite of the difficult year, this is an industry that can remain proud of its accomplishments, whether in helping to improve the performance of automotive electronic systems, or the accuracy of medical diagnostic systems, or the detection capabilities of a longrange military radar. During this holiday season, it is a time to look back upon this year and consider the ancient saying, "May you live in interesting times," more of a blessing than a curse.

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