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  Date: 20th Dec 2010

iSuppli: MEMS microphone shipments to cross 695.5 million units up 57.7% y-o-y

iSuppli has reported (MEMS) microphones shipments are set to expand to 695.5 million units in year 2010, up 57.7 percent from 441 million in 2009 and by 2014, shipments will rise to 1.7 billion units, four times the total for 2009.

"In a major milestone, Apple in 2010 employed MEMS microphones in the iPhone 4, the first time the company used the technology in the iPhone line," said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst, MEMS, for iSuppli. "Although Apple previously used MEMS microphones in the fifth-generation iPod nano released in 2009, the company exclusively had been employing ECM technology in the iPhone line. With this move, Apple in 2010 will become the world's second-largest buyer of MEMS microphones, behind Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Apple was the sixth largest buyer in 2009."

iSuppli says the iPhone 4 employs two separate MEMS microphones for noise suppression, a technique that reduces background sounds to improve the clarity of voice communications. Although noise suppression has been available since 2006, the arrival of Motorola Inc.'s Droid as well as the iPhone 4 has caused the popularity of the technology-and of MEMS microphones-to soar. The majority of smart phones by 2014 will use two or more MEMS microphones.

As per iSuppli the mobile handset market in 2010 is the largest consumer of MEMS microphones, ahead of notebook PCs. Headsets will form the third largest user of MEMS microphones, due to their use by Apple. By 2014, mobile handsets and notebook PCs will still be the largest application for MEMS microphones, followed by slate-type tablets, such as Apple's iPad, according iSuppli study.

MEMS microphone pioneer Knowles Electronics has dominated the market with 80 percent of shipments expected in 2010. The competition is rising, with three of the world's five largest MEMS microphone suppliers now being Asian suppliers of conventional ECM-AAC Acoustic Technologies Holdings Inc., BSE Co. Ltd. and Hosiden Corp.-all of which recently added the product to their portfolio. These companies buy MEMS die from Infineon Technologies, package them and sell them, using their existing channels. Analog Devices Inc. is the only other pure MEMS company in the Top 5, as per iSuppli study.

An International Trade Commission judge ruled that Knowles's silicon microphone patents were invalid, resulting in increased competition.

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