Components | April 10, 2012
STmicro leads the way in MEMS
STMicroelectronics leverages Apple design wins to increase Consumer and Mobile MEMS leadership.
Fueled by booming sales to Apple Inc., particularly its exclusive design wins in the iPhone, iPad and iPod lines, STMicroelectronics in 2011 padded its leadership position in the global market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) in consumer and mobile devices. STMicroelectronics in 2011 achieved an 81 percent increase in consumer and mobile MEMS revenue to reach $638.7 million, up from $353.3 million in 2010, according to information and analytics provider IHS. This represented the highest level of growth among the top 10 suppliers of consumer and mobile MEMS, allowing STMicroelectronics to increase its market share and leadership margin over No. 2 ranked Knowles Electronics. French-Italian based STMicroelectronics in 2011 maintained its status as the top supplier with a 30 percent share of the overall consumer and mobile MEMS market, up from 22 percent in 2010. Early MEMS investment pays off for STMicroelectronics No. 1 since 2009, STMicroelectronics is the top supplier of accelerometers to cellphones, tablets, laptops and video game consoles, with the accelerometer’s function serving as a motion sensor. STMicroelectronics is also the only provider of accelerometers and gyroscopes—which help improve the motion-based interface of devices—for Apple’s iPhones, iPads and iPods. Apple alone accounted for half of STMicroelectronics’ MEMS revenue in 2011. “STMicroelectronics owes its success to early bets that have paid off,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. “As the first company to fully believe in the consumer MEMS business—even before the iPhone and Nintendo Wii game console arrived—STMicroelectronics had no difficulties ramping up and producing MEMS in mass volume when the market exploded starting in 2007. STMicroelectronics then invested heavily in the development of 3-axis gyroscopes, and these parts eventually found their way into the iPhone 4 and into the Move controller for the PlayStation game console from Sony Corp.” Part of STMicroelectronics’ success also stems from the company’s willingness to cooperate with other MEMS companies to shorten time to market, instead of trying to do everything alone. For instance, STMicroelectronics partnered with Honeywell in the electronic compass business, and also collaborated with Omron on MEMS microphones. STMicroelectronics last year shipped an estimated 15 million digital MEMS microphones into handsets made by Nokia Corp., as well as into laptops from Hewlett-Packard and Taiwanese computer maker Asustek Computer Inc. In the process, STMicroelectronics became the top MEMS microphone supplier to Nokia ahead of former front-runner Knowles, achieving the feat in less than one year. Knowles, TI and InvenSense make gains; Avago drops Second-ranked Knowles rose one spot from No. 3 in 2010, with MEMS revenue last year up 42 percent to a record $270.9 million. Despite erosion in its market share last year, Knowles still largely dominates the MEMS microphone business with 73 percent share of revenue, remaining highly competitive with a roster of top customers such as Samsung Electronics, Apple and LG Electronics. Knowles also introduced a fourth-generation MEMS microphone last year into the iPhone 4S featuring a 35 percent reduction in silicon area compared to its previous-generation product. No. 3 Texas Instruments, up a notch from fourth place in 2010, enjoyed consumer and mobile MEMS revenue in 2011 of $204.6 million, a 27 percent increase. Pico projectors are its principal revenue growth driver, as the company’s digital light processing (DLP) technology currently dominates the projector space. Avago slipped from second place in 2010 to No. 4 last year—one of only two companies alongside Panasonic to decline in ranking among the Top 10. Avago remains the top manufacturer of bulk acoustic wave filters, but price erosion was stronger than unit growth in 2011, causing Avago’s revenue to drop to $190.6 million, down 8 percent from $207.3 million in 2010. Rounding out the Top 5 last year was InvenSense with revenue of $142.8 million, up 54 percent from the year earlier. While STMicroelectronics was the sole supplier of 3-axis gyroscopes for Apple, InvenSense dominates the 3-axis gyroscope market for other original equipment manufacturers excluding Apple. InvenSense also ships dual-axis gyroscopes into sectors like gaming, and has achieved some success with single-axis gyroscopes for toy helicopters and other consumer goods. The company has managed to reverse its heavy dependence on gaming, diversifying into mobile handsets and tablets last year.
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