Chip forecasts head south

Industry outlook quickly getting downgraded as the economy falters.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Along with the economy, chip forecasts are heading south.

Following an outlook about weak chip industry capital spending from market researcher Gartner on Wednesday, iSuppli cut its 2008 IC revenue forecast to 3.5 percent from 4 percent on Thursday.

The memory chip industry is the canary in the coal mine. At least two memory chip manufacturers are on life support right now. Hynix, the world's second largest maker of memory, is trying to scare up cash by seeking buyers for a 36 percent stake in the company. The other ailing memory maker is Qimonda AG. Rumors have been rife that the manufacturing assets of the loss-ridden company will be snapped up.

Hynix and Qimonda won't get any help from the market in the coming months. Gartner said that the oversupply in memory, combined with a slowing consumer market, "gives little hope for an upside until 2010." Semiconductor industry capital spending is forecast to decline 25.7 percent in 2008--this would be the steepest decline since 2002--and another 12.8 percent in 2009, according to the market researcher.

The iSuppli report isn't any brighter. The outlook for memory revenue has been revised downward by 5.8 percentage points for 2008. iSuppli is citing the "credit crisis" as adversely affecting demand.

And let's not forget the Micron surprise on Thursday. The largest maker of memory chips in the U.S. said it would reduce its workforce 15 percent during the next two years. "Selling prices for NAND flash memory (are) significantly below manufacturing costs," Micron said in a statement.

SanDisk--the largest supplier of retail flash memory products--has problems of its own. It has become a buyout target as its stock price has steadily declined over the last 12 months.

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