On the "eve" of this year's National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference, (NFOEC) in Baltimore, MD, one cannot fail to be aware of the financial gloom hanging over the world's telecommunications sector. Financial problems notwithstanding, the technology of optical communications components and systems continues to dominate much of the optoelectronics news. Conference organizers apparently expect a record exhibitor count at NFOEC, with increased attendance over last year (see p. 15). And among the technical papers presented in Baltimore, many of the current "hot topics" will be well represented. One key issue related to increased communication speed is dispersion management, which is discussed in this month's Optical Networking series on page 79. Another communications-related feature takes a look at the thin-film coatings used for wavelength-division-multiplexing filters (see p. 145).
Meanwhile, order cancellations caused by overcapacity have hit semiconductor equipment makers hard, according to the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI; San Jose, CA), which in May reported a 41% drop in orders for April compared to March. However, a more recent report from Intel sounded a somewhat optimistic note: reiterating its forecast for second-quarter sales, the company commented that it is starting to see signs of stability in its microprocessor business, adding that it expects overall demand to pick up later in the year. And despite the slowdown, chip makers are busy making plans to tackle the challenges of 157-nm lithography, which is the topic of the three articles in the Optoelectronics World supplement in this issue (following p. 114).
A look at other optoelectronics markets also hints at a brighter outlook. At CLEO in Baltimore last May, several firms noted that, despite the depressing news surrounding telecom, many other sectors are doing fine. Relatively upbeat financial results from Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA) and Coherent (Santa Clara, CA) would seem to confirm this—both firms reported significant year-to-year second-quarter growth. Advances in "traditional" technologies fuel some of this growth—a point illustrated by this month's Back to Basics article about ultrafast lasers (see p. 107). Other July features include a discussion of atmospheric remote sensing (see p. 137), a look at commercial terahertz imaging (see p. 91), and a review of position-sensing detector technology (see p. 155). This issue also includes a Special Report about the success of some US optoelectronics firms in building a manufacturing presence in Asia (see p. 98). So despite the high-profile difficulties surrounding optical communications, other markets are not necessarily undergoing the same turmoil.