LONDON Ė In 2012, after several years of growth stability engendered by the size and diversity of the market, the MCU market became more complex with unit shipments surging 16 percent while revenues declined 3 percent and average selling prices (ASPs) plunged 17 percent, according to market analysis firm IC Insights.
The price erosion was due to competition in 32-bit MCUs. While MCU shipments climbed to a record high of 17.3 billion units the value of sales fell to $15.2 billion.
The MCU market will return to growth in value in 2013 with a 2 percent rise to $15.5 billion with unit shipments growing 10 percent to 19.1 billion units, according to the market analysis firm. This implies an ASP erosion of 8 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, MCU revenues are projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8 percent while unit shipments are expected to rise by a CAGR of 10.1 percent over the five-year period.
The market division between 8-, 16- and 32-bit MCUs is clearly moving to the benefit of 32-bit MCU suppliers. In 2013, 16-bit MCU shipments are expected to rise 9 percent to 7.9 billion units. Shipments of 4-/8-bit MCUs are expected to grow 6 percent to 6.7 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, 32-bit MCU shipments are forecast to climb by 20 percent in 2013 to 4.5 billion units.
Over the next five years 32-bit devices will steadily grab a greater share of sales and unit volumes. By 2017, 32-bit MCUs are expected to account for 55 percent of microcontroller sales, while 16-bit devices will represent 22 percent of market revenues and 4-/8-bit will be about 23 percent, based on IC Insightsí forecast. In terms of unit volumes, 32-bit MCUs are expected account for 38 percent of microcontroller shipments in 2017, while 16-bit devices will represent 34 percent of the total, and 4-/8-bit designs are forecast to be 28 percent of units sold that year.
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A growing number of MCU suppliers are offering product families based on 32-bit RISC-processor cores licensed from ARM Holdings plc, which began pursuing the microcontroller segment about eight years ago. ARM has quickly established a major position in the MCU market by offering intellectual property (IP) and design technologies that are similar to RISC-core technologies used in most application processors for cellphones and tablet computers.
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