I'm back. Semicon West 2008 is done. It's been a busy week, and I'm glad to get some time for writing. If you're used to tradeshows within the PC industry, Semicon West seems like a very quiet, conservative show -- there aren't a lot of theater presentations, music, or flashy lights. It's sort of the opposite of an E3 or NAB -- Semicon West is mostly about guys in suits wandering around in a fairly saying their annual hello to people that they've known for years and years.
Probably the most interesting news coming out of Semicon this year was the addition of the Intersolar North America show to the third floor of Moscone West. For background, the semiconductor manufacturing industry has been seeing some belt-tightening this year. Like the seasons of the year, the semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry sees the patterns of growth and 'slowth' as a normal part of the business cycle that's been going on for years and years. But with the cost of oil, global warming, and a focus on alternative energy, the big growth area these days is in Photovoltaics (PV) -- the manufacture of materials for solar energy. Photovoltaic cells are currently made using some manufacturing technologies that are closely tied to semiconductor manufacturing. Because of the differences in processes and end product goals, the PV industry has some different focuses that they are trying to work through -- significantly reducing production costs, increasing output volume and improving material efficiency. That's driving a lot of industry investment and a host of companies hoping to find the path to profitable production.
The Intersolar hall had a lot of traffic, and most of the people that I talked to about the traffic at the show commented about how busy that event seemed to be. Of course, the odd thing about this -- and from what I've heard about other solar and photovoltaic shows -- is the challenge of framing who exactly is participating in the show. Because the industry is growing and finding focus, the Intersolar show featured companies showing products ranging from inline solar cell equipment to companies demonstrating their solar panels that could be installed on someones roof. One recent solar show seemed heavily concentrated on contractors capable of installing solar systems on your house. Going forward, it'll be interesting to see how this industry starts to find it's focus -- and whether that focus will be as a comprehensive industry or as a subset of some other industries.