Down in the Valley, the car lots are empty

It’s obviously too soon to say that everything is just fine and dandy down in Silicon Valley.  We took a drive down there on Friday, right the way to millionaire enclave Silver Creek, and all the way there was property to let and empty car lots.

It’s depressed in San Francisco too – just down from the Marriott, the Sony shop has shuttered, to be replaced by a farmers’ market, while all the other formerly buzzing bars and restaurants associated with the Metreon had an air of despondency.

The word is that Toyota, which has a manufacturing plant la bas, is thinking of shuttering that factory which spells bad news –  not just for the 10,000 workers there – but for the associated suppliers and infrastructure chain.

But what about tech? We visited Asus, OCZ, Samsung and tried to visit Corsair – and the messages there for the first three are of cautious recovery. We couldn’t get to see anyone from Corsair.

Trundling down sweet old 101 the going was easy – which ain’t the way I remembered it this time last year when I was on my X86 grand tour.

OCZ said that it was optimistic about the future, and that SSDs were proving to be good business right now.

We went to lunch at the most amazing place called Megabytes – themed on the computer industry, as you can see. Hope you can read the menu – see you have Peripherals, Motherboards – a COBOL Pizza eh?!!? – and the room is decorated with pictures of the great and mighty like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and the rest. We had the spaghetti meatballs. There’s a giant slice of pizza with real components dotted about it as the topping. We didn’t have that because it looked a bit indigestible.

The message of guarded optimism was similar at Asus – it’s astonishing how big its catalog is. It’s got some cute products too – we hadn’t come across a Skype appliance designed for senior people. You don’t need a PC or notebook to make this work – it’s standalone and you just press the buttons to turn it into a video phone. The Asus building is buzzing – it’s not that far from the MSI building. The MSI building isn’t buzzing at all.  Asus is set to make a big push into the notebook market and seemed a little amused that its competitor, Gigabyte, had borrowed ideas from its advert which depicted a slim notebook as a frisbee and replaced it with a picture of a man catching a notebook with his nether regions.

Samsung’s building is pretty impressive and security is tight there. No phones or cameras inside the building and you have to be escorted everywhere you go.  There’s a cute little gallery inside the building full of tech, tech and tech again. And semiconductors, of course.

All three of these vendors are preparing for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. They’ve all got big plans for the show. Look out for some really big displays from Samsung.