Halla Predicts a Semi Boom

In his Comdex keynote, National Semi CEO Brian Halla says the next boom in semiconductor spending, driven by ubiquitous always-connected devices, will reach its peak growth rate next June.

Offering a new law of technical progress to his Comdex keynote audience this week, National Semiconductor Corp. President and CEO Brian Halla asserted that the cost per bit of Internet connections falls by one-half every year--and that the next boom in semiconductor spending, driven by ubiquitous always-connected devices, will reach its peak growth rate next June (on June 21, to be precise).

Hallas statement--dubbed "Bahais Law" in honor of National Semiconductor fellow Dr. Ahmad Bahai--was one of four forces that Halla named as propelling the coming surge in novel devices and applications. The "China Effect" of an exploding Asian market will also make this technology boom unlike any other, he predicted.

Perhaps most important, though, in enabling new levels of connection and interaction may be what Halla called "Free Radios": low-power, ultra-wideband transceivers tucked into the corners of the microchips that will be in devices anyway, and that will add the capability of always-on connection (the fourth new force) at essentially zero cost.

Halla compared the boom-bust cycles of semiconductors to those of every other industry thats produced a new economic infrastructure. Construction of transcontinental railroads, he observed, created a huge boom in capacity that turned out to be mostly needed to meet the demands of that construction effort--and that was mostly surplus once that job was done.

But that surplus of boxcars, he argued, made it possible for people to explore new ideas like refrigerated cars and mail-order catalogs, propelling the expansion that inspired the first known economic use of the word "boom." He presented a mathematical model of past industry cycles, using chaos theory and adaptive algorithms in what might seem a blatant exercise in buzzword bafflegab--except that it does achieve an impressive fit with past data, an encouraging if not conclusive result. "If it works," he said, "well call it Hallas Harmonic."

With true Las Vegas showmanship, Halla waited until the last few seconds of his speech to reveal the resulting prediction for the next spending wave. "We did not have a dot-com boom," Halla declared. "We had a building-the-railroad boom. The track is in the ground. Now, let the dot-com boom be upon us--and it is."