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Intel will carve off flash and communications units - analysts

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More broadly, the analysts expect Silicon Valley to continue producing solid chip companies but believe the US's influence overall will fade in the coming years.

Silicon Valley can still serve as a great "center of excellence" due to its talented people and business climate, Edelstone said.

That said, China and India are producing more engineers than the US and provide more cost-effective conditions for hiring massive amounts of staff. This will likely lead to an increase in the number of chip design companies that spring up here but then hire more of their workers in Asia - a scenario that has already started to play out.

The engineering talent is just one factor that will put more focus on China and India, according to the analysts.

"When you look at those two countries, I like to joke that four billion people can't be wrong," Niles said. "As those economies continue to outstrip the US, they are going to consume a lot of goods. I think the US consumer is tapped out."

The analysts doubted whether China could create the next Intel per se, but companies here that focus on limited use semiconductors are doomed.

"Doing an MP3 controller is probably not going to be a very defensible business when you can have someone in China do it cheaper and faster," Edelstone said.

Away from semiconductors, the professional pundits had advice for regulators as well. The panel went ballistic when the topic of Eliot Spitzer, New York's ambitious attorney general, came up. Spitzer and others have helped push through a number of reforms meant to have companies and analysts be more more transparent about their actions.

Regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley that many people deride as a painful exercise in paper pushing sprang up in the post-Enron world.

"They have done a great job of taking productivity out of the industry, as people try to document everything," Niles said. "It's stupid."

"Investors have been very poorly served by what Spitzer brought," added Osha.

The analysts agreed that tighter regulations have resulted in an environment where many pundits are afraid to hand out strong opinions. Survivors in the profession simply straddle the middle ground while the good guys pick other careers. It's a real loss for us all.

Now, as promised, here are the stock picks. For the record, Edelstone has done the best over the past three years, while Osha has struggled. Niles sits in the middle. All of these picks are meant as 12-month bets.

Edelstone picked Atheros and Silicon Laboratories, as two companies that will come out with "hot new products" this year and do well in the market.

Osha picked Micron and ATI Technologies as strong comeback stories.

Niles picked Genesis Microchip and seemed to be half serious and half joking about buying gold as a commodity.

The pundits, you see, can never stick to the silicon. ®

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