Getting a good fix on the market for silicon MEMS microphones is proving elusive, given the declining worldwide economy, the growing number of companies trying to get into this business, and the relatively small size of this market compared to other MEMS devices. On the high side, Yole Développement predicts that silicon MEMS microphones will experience a growth rate of 35% through 2012. Silicon microphones will replace inkjet heads as the largest MEMS product in unit terms, according to Yole’s early 2008 market forecast numbers.
Other forecasters are more conservative. For example, iSuppli Corp. shows a $135 million 2008 market for silicon MEMS microphones, growing to about $390M in 2012 (see the figure). And despite other forecasts with higher numbers, iSuppli says about 330 million units were shipped in 2008 (mostly for mobile phones). This number is close to the 291 million units shipped in 2008 as reported by the Information Network.
“Rapid growth in silicon MEMS microphones—first introduced by Knowles Acoustics in 2002 and expected to approach the 800-million-unit mark by 2012—is just one more proof that MEMS devices can scale production rapidly to support even the highest-volume consumer markets,” says Karen Lightman, managing director of the MEMS Industry Group.
“With Knowles’ considerable success in mobile handsets, Akustica’s inroads in PC notebooks, and established companies like Analog Devices, Infineon, and Omron launching their own silicon microphones, it’s not a stretch to say that silicon microphones are poised to be among the top three MEMS devices, extending the dominance of MEMS in consumer electronics,” she adds.
Lightman’s comments dovetail with the forecasts of many market research firms for long-term growth of mobile phones and PC notebooks beyond 2009 despite sluggish short-term sales. Smart mobile phones will gravitate toward enterprise applications for small- to medium-size businesses.
According to research firm Gartner, enterprise mobile phones will surpass the number of landline desktop phones in the next three years. And, ABI Research expects the shipment of 35 million notebook computers in 2009, rising to an estimated 130 million by 2013.
According to Taiwan’s Industrial Economics and Knowledge (IEK) Center, part of the Taiwanese government sponsored Industrial Technology Research Institute, the average selling price for MEMS microphones will drop precipitously by 2010. Specifically, these devices will fall to 15 cents by then, which is a decline of about 70% from 2006 prices.