MEMS microphones are tiny microphones that employ a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched on a semiconductor using microelectromechanical technology. They are commonly employed in cell phones, headsets, notebook PCs, video cameras and cars.
“MEMS microphones are truly one of the success stories in the MEMS market,” said Jérémie 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 cell phones.
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 (SMDs), and thus will remain in the market for many years,” Bouchaud said.
MEMS microphone makers’ machinations
Because of the strong promise of MEMS microphones, new suppliers are entering the market and changing the competitive landscape. Two large companies-EPCOS and Bosch-bought entry tickets into the MEMS microphone market during the last six months by engaging in acquisitions.
While Knowles still largely dominates the market with more than 80 percent of units, two companies are emerging as volume manufacturers next to Knowles: Infineon and MemsTech. Overall, nine companies now are shipping MEMS microphones to customers.
“This is a good news for a market that has been suffering from a lack of second sources for volume production.” Bouchaud said.
For more information on this topic, read iSuppli’s latest report entitled: Dynamic Times for MEMS Microphones. [September 24, 2009]
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