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Mobile apps drive MEMS mic shipments

Posted: 29 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? MEMS mic? mobile application?

The 2009 slowdown will not hinder the growth of MEMS microphones as global shipments are set to more than triple from 2008 to 2013 due to their strong acceptance in mobile handsets and other applications, according to iSuppli Corp.

Worldwide MEMS microphone shipments are set to reach 1.1 billion units in 2013, up from 328.5 million in 2008. This strong growth will come despite a deceleration in shipment growth and a decline in global revenue in 2009, the first such contraction in the history of the market.

MEMS microphones are tiny microphones that employ a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched on a semiconductor using microelectromechanical technology. They are commonly employed in cellphones, headsets, notebook PCs, video cameras and cars.

"MEMS microphones are truly one of the success stories in the MEMS market," said J�r�mie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, MEMS, for iSuppli. "Market shipments are set to exceed 1 billion in 2013, largely because these MEMS are becoming less expensive as the volume increases. Silicon microphones also outperform conventional microphones in terms of size, scalability, and sound quality. The simplification of applications like noise cancellation and beam forming for directional microphones using MEMS will further boost their acceptance."

Demand for digital technology microphones also will boost sales of MEMS devices for laptops and increasingly for cellphones.

Mic check
Despite the rosy outlook for MEMS microphones, the year 2009 will be a poor one for the market.

"After five consecutive years of double-digit growth, global MEMS microphone shipments will rise by only 7.5 percent in 2009," Bouchaud observed. "With the weak rise in unit shipments and decline in pricing, global revenue will drop to $132.4 million in 2009, down 2.4 percent from $135.7 million in 2008."

The MEMS microphone market largely can attribute its 2009 sales woes to one company: Motorola.

"Motorola was the first company to widely adopt MEMS microphones, making extensive use of them in its best-selling ultra-thin RAZR handsets," Bouchaud said. "The company accounted for about 30 percent of global shipments of MEMS microphones for mobile handsets in 2008. However, the company has suffered a major downturn, having fallen to the world's No. 4 position in the global handset market in 2008, down from No. 2 in 2006. Motorola is continuing to lose handset share in 2009. This has seriously impacted MEMS microphone sales."

Beyond Motorola, another factor impacting the MEMS microphone market in 2009 is the weakness in the worldwide mobile handset market. Global cell phone shipments are set to decline significantly in 2009. Furthermore, MEMS microphones continue to face competition from older electret condenser microphones.

"Electret condenser devices are still significantly cheaper than MEMS and are now available as Surface Mount Devices, and thus will remain in the market for many years," Bouchaud said.

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