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Electronics Production | May 31, 2007

Image sensors will reach record sales in 07

After a lackluster start in 2007, the market for semiconductor image sensors is expected to strengthen this summer and finish the year with modest growth of 11% and record-high sales of $8.2 billion, based on IC Insights' analysis of current business conditions.
Worldwide sales of CCD and CMOS image sensors will increase at a cumulative average growth rate (CAGR) of 14% between 2006 and 2011, reaching annual revenues of $14.3 billion in five years (Figure 1), according to IC Insights' 2007 Optoelectronics, Sensor, and Discrete (O-S-D) Report.

During the first quarter of 2007, inventory corrections in camera cell phones and slowing growth rates in digital still cameras contributed to a 6% sequential decline in image sensor sales compared to 4Q06. However, total image sensor sales reached $1.8 billion in 1Q07, a 6.5% increase from 1Q06. IC Insights is predicting that image sensor sales will increase 10.7% to $8.2 billion in 2007, compared to $7.4 billion in 2006 when the market grew 17.4% from $6.3 billion in 2005.

Shipments of image sensors peaked in 3Q06, partly due to the buildup of camera phone inventories in Asia. After dealing with weakness in the first three months of this year, suppliers of CMOS image sensors are now reporting signs of stabilization and early recovery in some market segments as excess inventories of phones begin to disappear. More importantly, new orders for 1.3-megapixel and greater CMOS image sensors are finally gaining momentum as more consumers decide to buy cellular handsets with enhanced embedded cameras for higher resolution still photos and video recordings. New CMOS image sensor solutions with built-in auto focusing features also promise to increase average selling prices (ASPs) of camera-phone devices in the second half of 2007.

CMOS devices now account for more than 65% of overall image sensor sales. CCDs (charge-coupled devices) continue to lose share to low-power consuming CMOS technology, which enables more functions to be integrated on a single die and allows standard IC wafer fabs to make inexpensive image sensors. IC Insights forecasts 24% sales growth in CMOS image sensor sales to $5.5 billion in 2007, while CCD revenues are expected to decline 9% to nearly $2.6 billion.


After a couple years of phenomenal growth, Micron Technology took over the top spot in the CMOS image sensor market in 2006 with $845 million in sales, followed by STMicroelectronics with $540 million. OmniVision, previously the largest CMOS image sensor supplier, slipped to third place with $520 million in device sales last year, according to IC Insights' ranking in the 2007 O-S-D Report. Underscoring the difficulties faced by suppliers at the start of 2007, Micron's image sensor sales fell sequentially 36% to $156 million in its last fiscal quarter, ended March 1, compared to $244 million in the prior three-month period ended November 30, 2006. Micron blamed weakness in mobile handsets, increased competition, and a shift in the market mix toward lower value VGA-based camera phones.

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