Can Semiconductors Save the World?

“Everything that is important to this world will be solved by semiconductor technology.” That was the claim of National Semiconductor (s NSM) CEO and Chairman Brian Halla at the EcoChip forum hosted at chipmaker Actel’s (s ACTL) Silicon Valley campus on Monday. It’s a tall order, of course, not least of all for an industry expecting to see its annual sales plummet by 5.6 percent to $246.7 billion in 2009 compared to 2008. For the fourth quarter alone, the Semiconductor Industry Association anticipates sales will drop 5.9 percent from the previous 3-month period.

But Halla sees the seemingly unfavorable set of circumstances — good profit margins, bad markets, and a “butt-ugly economy” — as something of a perfect storm that will allow the semiconductor industry to do for renewable energy and zero-emissions vehicles what it did for consumer electronics: make them practical, affordable and profitable. Here’s how:

The Good: The big semiconductor companies are good at making money, Halla said. Good enough, anyway, that they have R&D budgets even for clean technology. These companies don’t need a government aid package (ahem, Big Three) to develop products that manage energy use and prolong battery life, although more funding for pre-competitive research in universities would be nice.
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GigaOM Picks: Web Resources to Help You Learn About the Credit Crunch

Like many folks, the ins and outs of the current economic situation are somewhat beyond the scope of my freshman year “Principles of Economics” class. Credit default swaps? Bailouts? I don’t seem to remember covering any of these things in Ec10. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for me — and you — to get educated about what’s happening today, all thanks to the Internet. Read More about GigaOM Picks: Web Resources to Help You Learn About the Credit Crunch

Regulation, Not Economy, Delaying Carbon Projects

Add this to the (small) list of things you CAN’T blame the credit crisis for: carbon project delays.
Reuters has an article this morning on the impact of the credit crunch on the global carbon finance market. The upshot: Carbon markets are strong, yet projects are being delayed anyway. But not by finance hurdles. Instead, the problem is an overwhelmed regulatory process.
The global carbon markets grew to $50 billion in the first six months of 2008 and are expected to double by year’s end, according to Reuters. But the original outline of the carbon markets regulatory scheme didn’t anticipate the huge amount of interest in “Clean Development Mechanism” projects. Such projects allow developed nations to purchase credits from carbon-friendly projects in the developing world. Karan Capoor, a World Bank specialist in carbon and environmental finance, told Reuters, “[T]he regulatory infrastructure is not fully geared to handle this high level of interest.”
The article notes that 63 percent of carbon projects are currently “under review,” and Capoor estimates that delays can reduce their potential tradeable credits by as much as 40 percent. As we’ve noted before, if such regulatory hurdles aren’t sorted out, the market is likely to become less attractive to potential investors, even those looking for a safe haven from the credit crisis.

Dude, Where’s My Ad?

Last week, Silicon Valley woke up to find itself caught in the death grip of the credit crunch. As to which sector is going to get hit the hardest, the consensus so far is: advertising. Continue Reading.

Venture Firms Pull Back, But Not for Long

Venture firms are sounding the alarm over what this current downturn might mean for their portfolio companies — and it’s not pretty.  While it’s true that great companies are built during downturns, it’s also true that plenty of entrepreneurs are going to be shut out of any sort of financing for the foreseeable future, all as their personal wealth dwindles and banks decline to offer home equity loans or other lines of credit.

We’ve already reported on how the rest of this year is going to be a cautious time for venture and angel investors, but what does that mean for tech entrepreneurs? And how long, exactly, will VCs stay on the sidelines? As bad as things are forecast to be, my bet is that they won’t be there for long. Read More about Venture Firms Pull Back, But Not for Long

Watch the Economic Meltdown Online

The scariest thing to watch this Halloween isn’t in theaters — it’s in the stock market. It’s down! It’s up! It’s down! My 401k! Aaaaaaaaagghhh! We can’t help you manage your money, but we can help all those obsessive compulsives get up-to-the minute reports on the global-thermo-nuclear markets and economies.

When you think of business news, the first name that springs to mind is probably CNBC. And if we were talking oldteevee, that would be your best bet. But this is NewTeeVee, and for online video, CNBC kinda blows. There’s no live feed, just regularly updated videos (that are not embeddable). On the plus side CNBC does offer video news covering the U.S., Europe and Asia.

CNBC’s rival FOX Business News is only a little better. They don’t offer live video either, but they do allow embeds of their video updates.

MarketWatch offers video updates and analysis as well, but it’s organizational system is only by topics, and not by “latest,” so it’s hard to tell what’s really new news. TheStreet.com also has its own micro-news bits, but the shows are a little lackluster (unless you’re a Jim Cramer fan).

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