Michell Prunty is Semico's Senior Consumer Analyst.  See her bio here

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Michell Prunty's blog

Electronic Stability Control: Terrific but Learn How to Use It

On Thursday, September 14, 2006 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a proposed rule that will require Electronic Stability Control on all passenger vehicles in the United States by 2012. This was immediately hailed in some quarters as, “the greatest safety advantage since seat belts.” That’s a nice thought, but it isn’t true. Electronic stability control won’t help in alcohol related accidents, and driver training is needed realize the potential safety improvement offered by stability control systems. Reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, but by most estimates are that nearly half of traffic fatalities are related to alcohol consumption. Electronic Stability Control will not prevent fatalities cause by drunk drivers. Seat belts will - up to a point. Even seat belts won’t help much in a 90mph head-on. Electronic Stability Control won’t increase driver awareness or judgment.

Many drivers are unable to take advantage of the potential improvement in safety offered today by ABS. (Anti-Lock Braking Systems). ABS should be a good thing. It brakes a car more efficiently than locked wheels would, decreasing stopping distances; and it maintains steering control. But there is evidence that ABS increases the severity of some crashes. When a typical driver sees a crash coming, the driver does two things: hits the brakes as hard as possible and throws the steering wheel hard-over to steer away from the anticipated crash.

Samsung 7 & 10 MP Cameras

Today Samsung announced two new "S" Series cameras for their Premium Digimax line. The two cameras, a 7MP S700 and a 10MP S1000, feature a 2.4" LCD and 3x optical zoom.

These two cameras also support MPEG-4, and the S1000 can record over an hour of VGA video at 30fps with a 256MB card. Samsung has also enabled movie editing functions with these two lines, making it easy to playback or save parts of movie clips to be saved as still images.

Like other digital cameras, these models include 7 scene modes, for automatic shooting, as well as a "Special Effects" mode for the more creative user. Some of the special effects include Sepia, color filters, black and white, photo frames, and composite shots, which allow a user to take 2 - 4 images and combine them into one file.

The Digimax S700 retails for $250 and the Digimax S1000 retails for $350. Both will be available in August.

With this announcement, it looks like Samsung is helping consumer cameras become closer and closer to the amateur professional range.

Whats Driving the Industry in 2007?

The Semico IPI Outlook conference will cover the key points you need to know for planning.

Economic conditions have a big impact on consumer spending. How is 2007 shaping up on the economic front? What potholes or rainbows are out there?

Fab capacity and capacity utilization combined with end market demand are key factors in the pricing structure for semiconductors. How much is the consumer willing to spend on electronics? Whats hot and whats not? How will that affect unit demand?

Intel has introduced new processor architecture to challenge AMDs recent success. How does Vista affect the market? When will business IT start a new computing upgrade cycle?

Our executive guest speakers will round out the event giving you a unique perspective on the changing facets of the industry.

Register today for your on-site or your webcast seat. For $295 you get the latest Semico forecast and assumptions. Youll leave armed with the best information available to make solid decisions for your company.

ComicCon 2006: Tales from the Geek Side

Frequent readers of Semico know that I am a fan of this convention and attend it during my family vacation. This year the Massimini’s enjoyed San Diego and ComicCon again. Yes, there were more geeks than you can shake a light saber at.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon, it is the largest convention for comic books in the world. However, it covers a great deal more. Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented. These are usually tied in with comics and animation. There is also a strong tie in with video games. Attendance reaches 100,000 on Saturday. It is the largest convention through out the year for the city of San Diego.

No, I did NOT go in costume, though there were plenty of interesting sights. At ComicCon one sees the rich source material for new entertainment. This is very important for the video game market. The fans of the sci-fi/comic genre want cutting edge graphics and special effects. They represent a key segment of the video game market. ComicCon is a venue for previewing many new upcoming games for the holiday season.

My 16-year old son was more than willing to provide in-depth research. He spent the entire time in the video game area just like every other year. However, this time he also attended some seminars that were given on some of the technical details for gaming PCs. I think I know his wish list for Christmas. The dual core MPUs from Intel and AMD are spurring interest among the high-end gamers.

WiMAX Receives Huge Boost

Last week, Sprint Nextel Corp. announced it would develop a 4G nationwide broadband mobile network using the mobile WiMAX technology standard. Together with Intel, Motorola, and Samsung, Sprint Nextel will develop a nationwide network infrastructure as well as mobile WiMAX chipsets. The network will use the 2.5GHz spectrum - Sprint Nextel holds 85% of this spectrum in the U.S.

Intel will contribute by offering WiMAX solutions for Centrino Mobile Technology, Motorola will offer single-and multi-mode handset devices for connectivity, and Samsung will be a primary Mobile WiMAX infrastructure provider. Part of the decision was motivated by the FCC's terms for the Sprint Nextel merger. The company agreed to start a mobile broadband service by 2007 or lose its holding of the 2.5GHz spectrum.

The goal of this concerted effort is to incorporate WiMAX technology into a wide variety of consumer electronic devices so users can access the Internet easily and inexpensively. The company plans to deploy the services in trial markets by the end of 2007 with a goal for 100 million subscribers by 2008. According to Sprint, monthly access charges will be considerably less than the current $60/month for unlimited access to its current EVDO network.

NAND Market Prepares for Growth

After a phenomenal first-quarter price collapse, the NAND market is preparing itself to break all revenue records in 2006. That's the finding in Semico Research Corporation's newly-released NAND forecast. Even though prices plummeted over 50% in the first quarter, this market's stunning growth will allow it not only to meet 2005's amazing $11 billion in sales, but will support a full 44% growth to record-breaking revenues of over $16 billion.

"Although many have used the Q1 price fall as an excuse to trim their forecasts to relatively modest growth rates, our data shows that the balance of 2006 will experience very strong growth," said Jim Handy, Director of Nonvolatile Memory Services at Semico Research Corp. "This growth will not only allow NAND to overcome the first-quarter setback, but will turbo-boost the market to higher sales than ever before!"

The NAND market, the fastest-growing semiconductor market in history, has enormous price elasticity: As prices drop more new applications adopt the technology. This allows NAND to displace existing forms of media, fostering accelerated growth.

RIAA VS LimeWire

Friday, the RIAA sued LimeWire for copyright infringement. The “Fastest File Sharing Program on the Planet,” LimeWire had been in discussion to install filters into their system, however their progress does not seem to have met the RIAA’s expectations.

LimeWire was started in 2000, and there have been over 20 million downloads of the program. It has been very popular for file downloading due to its speed and lack of viruses. While this is being written over 2 million users are currently hosting music for the sharing program.

While this may seem like a large case of copyright infringement, it must be remembered that Peer to Peer (P2P) networks like LimeWire or Kazaa are also excellent means to distribute independent music as well as free information. While not everything shared on these networks is legal, the fact that there are over 2 million hosts right now for one program shows how the this market has changed.

The RIAA is asking $150,000 in compensation for every song distributed without permission. Last week, Kazaa agreed to pay the RIAA $115 million and to implement filters in their software. The RIAA has also successfully dealt with Grokster, WinMx, and BearShare.

Consoles Everywhere

The console wars are still going strong. Despite optimistic forecasts by Microsoft their Xbox 360 console is still lagging behind PlayStation 2 sales, and will not meet their original projected sales forecast. This is an indicator that even though the Xbox has quite a lead on the competition, it’s still anyone’s game, including Nintendo’s.

Another indicator is that game software sales fell 10.2% in May, showing people still aren’t quite sure which console to throw their weight behind. Currently, the best selling games are for the DS Lite and PlayStation 2, both of which sell for $129 in the US.

DS Lite US Release

Nintendo released their upgrade for the DS on Sunday, June 11th in North America at $129.99. The DS Lite competes against Sony's PSP and other Nintendo products, such as the Game Boy series.

The DS has been said to revolutionize game play, as it is the first handheld console that includes dual screens, one of which is a touch screen, along with free wifi and a microphone for voice recognition. The DS Lite repackages the original in a sleeker, smaller design along with a brighter screen that is brighter than the competition's.

The current available color is white, with other colors available in the future, including black. Though we don't expect this to hinder sales, as this is the hottest selling handheld console on the market.

The DS Lite will be available in Europe June 23rd.


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