My thoughts right now are with the people of Japan as they continue to deal with the horrific aftermath of the quake and resulting tsunami. Having returned on March 4 from a six-day press trip to Tokyo and Kyushu, as a guest of Sony, I’m particularly moved by the images and stories of loss, devastation, endurance, patience and community emerging from the region in these days after the disaster.

For those of us who use cameras, software, monitors, batteries, memory cards and more made by prominent Japanese companies, another concern arises, albeit one that pales in comparison to the loss of life, home and livelihood in Japan. Electronics manufacturing in Japan has been disrupted on a major scale and one can only infer what this means for the new-release cameras and software coming to NAB next month. Japan’s economy relies heavily on tech-related exports and most experts agree we should expect shipment delays and inflated prices, at the very least in the short term, as the Japanese economy and infrastructure rebuilds itself.

According to a story this morning in the Wall Street Journal, those manufacturing disruptions are “expected to ripple across Asia in the coming weeks, further muddling the region’s economic picture at a time when countries are already struggling with higher oil and food prices.” Another piece in the WSJ this morning noted that the price of memory chips had already risen steeply, “underscoring concerns that global technology firms will have to contend with higher component costs and product shortages in the weeks ahead after a massive earthquake in Japan led to power outages and disruptions to several production lines and supply networks.” Indeed, about 40 % of all memory cards are produced in Japan. Says syndicated tech columnist Marc Saltzman, we can be certain that shipment delays will occur on all consumer and professional products manufactured in Japan.

It is a very small price to pay for such untold human suffering.

Word from our contacts at the major Japanese manufacturers is mixed. Panasonic tells us that its factories have largely been unaffected by the disaster, but Sony, with manufacturing plants in Sendai and the surrounding Miyagi Prefecture, was hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami. As of this morning, its Sendai Technology Center (Tagajyo, Miyagi) had ceased operation and seven more plants, including those that make Blu-ray discs, DVDs, Lithium Ion batteries, Semiconductor lasers and IC cards, had suspended manufacturing operations.

Official word from Sony this morning is that the company is “currently evaluating the full impact of the earthquake, tsunami and related power outages on Sony’s businesses and consolidated financial results.” Luckily, no “significant injuries” were reported by employees working at any of these sites when the earthquake or tsunami occurred.