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Forum Leads Industry Discussion

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The International Electronics Forum has become one of the most highly regarded events on the international electronics schedule. It is a chance for high level executives to gather and discuss key issues affecting the industry without the restraints of industry body agenda. David Ridsdale looks at what to expect.
Future Horizons is best known as a European analyst organisation but over the years has been running an international forum that is highly regarded throughout the industry. As an editor it is one of my favourite events of the year, both professionally and personally. Each year executive delegates gather in a different location to discuss the state of the industry in a formal and informal setting. The forum provides an environment of networking and communication other events lack.
The 15th Annual International Electronics Forum will take place at the Hilton Budapest from Sunday 30th April through Tuesday 2nd May 2006. Focusing on the opportunities and challenges of the third wave of the digital revolution, the Forum will explore what this transition means for the chip industry, with keynote speakers and panellists drawn from the full spectrum of the IT community.
Chipmakers Lead The Way.
As the third wave of the digital revolution finally gains momentum, the chip industry is breaking loose from the homogeneous PC-centric confines - where everyone's product and box essentially looked and worked the same - into the arms of fragmented consumer-centric heterogeneous multimedia, with significantly more brand names and lots of different price points.
Accompanying the transition is the move from a highly ordered business model to a hugely diverse chaotic and churning interconnected world. Long-term supplier relationships - so effective in the second digital wave - no longer work the same; suppliers earn deals one relationship at a time in the consumer electronics world. Solutions not technology will be the third wave lingua franca, with customers no longer forced to assemble the different components of their digital lifestyle, something they are inherently simply not equipped to do. Products, services and content will become much easier to buy, install and use, from the basic end product to the auxiliary devices and everything in between.
Increasingly integrated with our everyday lives, effective branding strategies at the chip level will be as much a key to success in the third digital wave as the cool, sophisticated styles of their end- customer products and the compelling new services that breathe life into their existence. Effective branding at the chip level is key to developing the comfort of interoperability across a wide range of different system manufacturers products.
Six years after the 3G spectrum bidding frenzy, the mobile multimedia revolution has finally taken off. The plan was simple enough: load up the bandwidth with TV, video, music, games and all manner of content that eager customers would flock to in droves. The reality has been an entrenched voice/text-centric business model stubbornly resistant to change. Poor execution has dogged the data revolution rollout, but finally the industry has found innovation and creativity.
Although not yet perfect, TV-enabled mobile handsets and satellite digital media broadcasting (S-DMB) hit the market in late 2005 and have proved to be a great way of killing time in a commute-intensive environment. In parallel, on-line gaming reached a new level of interest with the launch of the SIMS 2 mobile simulation game, a milestone that is set to widen the game horizon beyond the current male-dominated puzzle games and adapted action console titles.
The immediacy of handset shopping has always been attractive, but so far has been limited to ring-tones, logos, train tickets and vending machines. A far bigger selection is promised for 2006, from white goods to wine, just as with the Internet. Finally, adult entertainment sells, even on mobiles, with erotica and lotteries now a legitimate part of the mobile fabric. Other ways of delivering content, such as WiMax and WiBro, are also entering the equation, and will inevitably increase the take up of these services.
Effective and compelling data handling is not just a mobile phenomenon, it is also the key for the next generation telecom leap, as significant as the first GSM text message in 1992 or the first satellite phone calls in the mid-1960s. British Telecom (BT) in the UK is currently leading the field with its 21st Century Network (21CN), whereby its entire customer base will be migrated from the existing public-switch telephone network (PSTN) to an Internet Protocol (IP) network, a system that Alexander Graham Bell would scarcely recognise as telephony.
Trauma Preludes To A Paradigm Shift.
The characteristics of the third digital wave are significantly different from the two previous waves, requiring new rules to be learnt and new ways of doing business. Unlike the previous two waves, the third digital wave touches everyone and everything; technology is on the point of becoming pervasive and ubiquitous, just like electricity and telephony before it. As such, the technology imperative must now be on making it simple to use.
Complexity is currently holding the industry back, plus a lot of what is bought and paid for simply does not get used or implemented. Whilst complaints about complexity and/or technology are hardly new, the economic cost of IT complexity is unacceptably high. The IT effort needed to keep things running smoothly in the business environment is calculated at 25 percent for the hardware and 75 percent for the services, the reverse of what the figures were 15 years ago. In the consumer environment, the cost is incalculable, but includes call centres, help lines, unpatched machines, upgrades and crashes, together with the plethora of unused gadgets and features.
People are analogue and biological in nature, not digital and mechanical, and for the most part technology has so far made our lives more complex, not simpler - it is more often than not intrusive and overbearing. Analogues - the term used to describe users who are turned off by technology, not just the time it takes to figure things out but the pain and cost of making mistakes along the way - currently comprise 70 percent of the total; for the third wave to succeed, the analogues must be ‘zero'.
Market Significance. Technology marches on, opening new markets, expanding old ones, and enhancing our lives, with the fall out at the macro level affecting the entire world economy. The market for electronic products, traditionally a Japan, North America, and Western Europe domain, now encompasses the whole of the Asian rim, China, Eastern Europe and India - a middle class market growth from 500 million to three billion people.
From the chip makers perspective large markets will get larger, niche markets will become commodities, and new niche markets will arise, and if the lessons of history hold true to past form, the third wave market leaders will be significantly different for today's second-wave world. Far from the semiconductor market maturing, the industry is still in its volatile growth phase, with at least a further 20 years to develop. The wealth creation opportunities at the global GDP level are enormous, and the underlying growth drivers for chips never better.


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