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MCU's journey to 32bit processing

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MCU? microcontroller? 32bit processing?

Microcontrollers (MCUs) are used in wide range of segments including automotive, consumer, computing, communication, industrial and medical systems. Compared to other IC product categories, the market growth of MCUs has enjoyed stable growth since the 1980s. It was only in 2009 that the market experienced its worst-ever sales drop of 22 per cent to $11.1 billion.

Coming out of the 2009 downturn, MCU sales roared back with a record-high 36 per cent increase in the 2010, but thereafter, the microcontroller market has lost momentum as the world's economy wobbled forward.

In 2012, MCUs turned into a convoluted marketplace with unit shipments surging 16 per cent, but total revenues declining 3 per cent and average selling prices (ASPs) plunging 17 per cent. While uncertainty about the global economy played a factor in lowering MCU revenues, the market was significantly undermined by price erosion in 2012 as competition intensified in 32bit microcontrollers. The 17 per cent drop in ASPs was the worst one-year decline for MCUs since the 1980s. Meanwhile, MCU shipments climbed to a new record high of 17.3 billion in 2012, but the strong increase was not enough to keep dollar-volume sales from falling 3 per cent to $15.2 billion.

microcontroller shipments

MCU sales and unit shipments are forecast to steadily gain strength each year between 2014 and 2016 before growth rates substantially slow in 2017.

IC Insights believes the microcontroller market will return to "normalcy" in the next few years. MCU sales are forecast to rise 2 per cent in 2013 and reach $15.5 billion with unit shipments growing 10 per cent to nearly 19.1 billion (a new record high). Price erosion in MCUs is expected to ease in 2013 with ASPs dropping 8 per cent. MCU sales and unit shipments are forecast to steadily gain strength each year between 2014 and 2016 before growth rates substantially slow in 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, MCU revenues are projected to increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8 per cent while unit shipments are expected to rise by a CAGR of 10.1 per cent over the five-year period.

Globally, some softness continues to persist in computer markets, consumer goods, and industrial segments, but the bright spots for 2013 MCU growth can be found in communication applications, automotive electronics, smartcards, medical equipment, home automation, power management and smart metering, solid-state lighting built with light emitting diodes (LEDs), and renewable-energy generation, such as solar systems and wind turbines.

Historically, the 8bit segment has dominated MCU sales, but the 32bit segment became the leading segment of the MCU market in 2010. The difference between 4-/8- and 32bit MCU sales was just $235 million in 2010, but the size gap has grown much wider since then. The 32bit microcontroller segment is forecast to reach nearly $6.9 billion in 2013, 57 per cent larger than the size of the 4-/8bit MCU market.

In terms of unit shipments, 16bit microcontrollers became the largest volume MCU category in 2011, overtaking 8bit devices for the first time that year. Shipments of 16bit MCUs grew 11 per cent in 2012 after a 23 per cent increase in 2011, partly on the strength of automotive applications. In 2013, 16bit MCU shipments are expected to rise 9 per cent to 7.9 billion units. Shipments of 4-/8bit MCUs are expected to grow 6 per cent to 6.7 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, 32bit MCU shipments are forecast to climb by 20 per cent in 2013 to 4.5 billion units.


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