Where's a crystal ball when you need one?

June 11, 2003

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comThe other day I asked an industry exec what was going on. I'd heard the numbers for CT were down in the first quarter. I'd heard it

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

The other day I asked an industry exec what was going on. I'd heard the numbers for CT were down in the first quarter. I'd heard it from a number of people. And I was wondering why. Was it a short-term blip, I asked, or was the industry heading into a recession? He told me he didn't know.

I'd be surprised if he did. Yet I make a living out of quoting people who say they do know. I have to admit, I usually ask a lot easier questions. I mostly ask about how things work, why one product is better than another, and when will it begin shipping (really).

But I think it's a shame that on the important questions, most people don't have a clue. These are the crystal ball questions, such as what's the market for CT or MR or PET scanners going to be like the rest of this year. Or next year. I'm still waiting to see the 3T market start absorbing 300 units per year. I heard that prediction a couple years ago. The people making it were wise not to say which year.

Whenever I talk about the market, nobody wants to say it is going to drop. One guy I spoke to said marketing people see sales going up for infinity-until sales really start going down and then they see sales going down for infinity. I think he's right.

About 20 years ago I was sitting at a medical device conference, listening to a Reagan administration official say how his boss's readjustment of the economy had made the U.S. recession-proof. I was at an industry conference in 1994 when an executive held up a report on the MR industry published the year earlier that predicted steady growth until the industry doubled in less than five years.

After the crash of 1993-94, everybody, it seemed, knew what had gone wrong. It was the Clinton healthcare reform initiative. But I came to wonder about that. If the Clintons had, in fact, single-handedly taken down the MR industry with their ideas about healthcare reform, wouldn't sales have bounced back like a rocket when the reforms were sidetracked? I've never gotten a good answer for that.

Today I'm wondering what will happen in CT. Less than a year after commercializing the long-awaited 16-slice generation, CT should be booming-but it's not. I don't know if it's a short-term blip or long-term bust. But I know, in a year or so, I'll find out why.

-Greg Freiherr