The technology industry is suffering mightily from the global economic crisis. Worldwide semiconductor revenue is expected to drop 24.1 percent in 2009, to US $194.5 billion, according to Gartner, a technology research firm in Stamford, Conn. Meanwhile, revenue from enterprise software—that is, corporate-scale systems—will be flat at about $222 billion. Still, there are some sectors that will gain, some bright spots in the gloom.

LEDs: The LCD TV market may be all gloom and doom, but LEDs are increasingly becoming the way to light the screen up. They replace cold-cathode fluorescent lamps, leading to slimmer TVs or screens with an improved ­contrast ratio. The LCD TV market will gobble up $163 million worth of LEDs in 2009, according to market research firm iSuppli, in El Segundo, Calif. That’s more than double last year’s figure. By 2012, LCD TV makers will be spending $1.4 billion on them. Manufacturers are using LEDs more often to backlight LCD TVs because of efficiency improvements and the development of lower-cost manufacturing in Taiwan and South Korea, says Jagdish Ribello, iSuppli’s LED analyst. Even more gains will surely come, now that engineers have figured out a way to fight an efficiency-sapping phenomenon called LED droop.

Virtualization: In a slump, the drive to do more with less is acute. So virtualization software, which basically lets a company get more out of its computing infrastructure by creating the equivalent of multiple machines per computer, is a natural fit. Gartner says the overall market will grow 43 percent to $2.7 billion in 2009. The largest component of that will be the $1.3 billion worth of virtualization management software Gartner expects firms to sell this year.

MEMS: Open up 1 in 10 new cellphones shipped in 2008 and you’d find a MEMS accelerometer, according to iSuppli. And mobile phones will continue to drive growth this year—not just for accelerometers but for zoom and auto-focus actuators, pico projectors, gyroscopes, and RF filters, too. Together with consumer items like game controllers and digital cameras, mobiles will push the market up 12 percent in 2009, to nearly $1.4 billion. MEMS manufacturers are making it easier to include accelerometers. For example, in March, STMicroelectronics unveiled an accelerometer for handhelds that can be hooked directly to a mobile’s battery without an intervening voltage regulator and that works consistently even as the battery runs down.

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How the FCC Settles Radio-Spectrum Turf Wars

Remember the 5G-airport controversy? Here’s how such disputes play out

11 min read
This photo shows a man in the basket of a cherry picker working on an antenna as an airliner passes overhead.

The airline and cellular-phone industries have been at loggerheads over the possibility that 5G transmissions from antennas such as this one, located at Los Angeles International Airport, could interfere with the radar altimeters used in aircraft.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve no doubt seen the scary headlines: Will 5G Cause Planes to Crash? They appeared late last year, after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that new 5G services from AT&T and Verizon might interfere with the radar altimeters that airplane pilots rely on to land safely. Not true, said AT&T and Verizon, with the backing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which had authorized 5G. The altimeters are safe, they maintained. Air travelers didn’t know what to believe.

Another recent FCC decision had also created a controversy about public safety: okaying Wi-Fi devices in a 6-gigahertz frequency band long used by point-to-point microwave systems to carry safety-critical data. The microwave operators predicted that the Wi-Fi devices would disrupt their systems; the Wi-Fi interests insisted they would not. (As an attorney, I represented a microwave-industry group in the ensuing legal dispute.)

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