ATLANTA, March 26 -- Putting on a brave face, Corning Inc. said at its annual briefing yesterday at OFC that although industry performance has gone from bad to worse, better days are coming. Robert B. Brown, Corning vice president for optical fiber, said although the worldwide fiber market was down by approximately 50 percent last year, events in progress should reverse that trend. Brown cited several factors, such as depletion of existing inventories, reduction of revenue-robbing debt, increased bandwidth demand and evolving applications. Among those anticipated applications was an old standby, fiber-to-the-home. Gerald Fine, general manager of Corning Photonic Technologies, told the audience that in contrast to the boom year of 2000, which saw growth of 50 percent, spending on optical systems in 2002 declined by 60 percent. In North America, spending fell 74 percent. The culprits in this decline, Fine said, were SONET and DWDM. The answer for Corning, Fine said, was to get out of businesses in which products had become commodities or for which market potential is years away. On balance, the view from Corning could best be characterized as resigned honesty: The company presenting the facts as it sees them minus the usual corporate sugar-coating. In line with that approach, the company's view of prospects for a better day were also couched in realism. Indeed, if customers have worked off inventory, new sales loom. If companies reduce debt, revenue is freed for capital expenditures. And if new -- or old -- applications boost demand, better days can surely follow.