Summer Doldrums

Is it cyclicality, or … ?

Many reports, anecdotal and evidentiary, point to a general slowing in PCB production and sales over the past quarter.

Yet there are some reasons for optimism:

I am of the mindset that what we are seeing is a return to cyclicality after roughly two years of recession followed by a year-plus of bottled-up demand. Clearly there’s some market turbulence ahead, especially when we take the macro vectors into account. Some of the end-markets need a boost: Now that Windows 7 has taken over, PCs are stagnant, with new tablet demand offset by rather humdrum desktop/laptop interest coupled with some migration to smartphones. Nokia and RIM are skidding, and Apple can’t make up for everyone’s lack of flair. Autos are a big-ticket item and many consumers today need stronger feelings of job security before taking on new debt.

A forecast slowdown in US defense spending (the nation’s fiscal year starts in October) could be partially offset by new deliveries of jumbo passenger jets (Boeing last month announced a record single order and will ship its first Dreamliner next month).

The tea leaves are murky. We hope for the best.

iSuppli Ups the Ante

iSuppli is on to something, and it’s about time.

The research firm today distributed its estimates for the smartphone market in 2009. But instead of forecasting a single number, the company provided a range based on the best- (new options compel new purchases) and worst-case (customers sit on their wallets) scenarios.

This is a much wiser, useful way to approach forecasting. Whereas some may call it a copout — by providing a range, iSuppli gives itself a greater chance of being “right” — I see it as a long overdue move into what is standard practice elsewhere. Indeed, providing a range is a method many researchers in other fields use to describe what might actually happen.

The next step would be to offer probabilities for the different scenarios; in other words, 50% of the time, sales will be up by X%; 75% of the time, sales will be up by Y%, and so on. But I’ll settle for other research firms picking up on what iSuppli has started. Kudos!