In the global semiconductor industry, not many think of Sony as a company with fast growth potential.
In a dismal 2012 global chip market whose overall revenues fell in a year by $7 billion, Dale Ford, IHS analyst, said Qualcomm Inc. is “standing out,” with a double-digit sales increase that will make it the world’s third-largest chip maker this year. Of course, this was predictable, with Qualcomm’s cellular chip ubiquitous in the growing smartphone market, including Apple’s iPhone 5.
The surprise, however, was that Sony posted the next best growth among the top 20 suppliers, according to IHS.
Driving Sony’s semiconductor business growth is none other than its image sensor business. According to Ford, Sony’s image sensor revenue accounts for nearly 60 percent of its semiconductor takings, which are expected to expand by 48 percent.
Indeed, the global image sensor market isn’t doing badly, either, since it is “expected to grow 19 percent in 2012, with the CMOS image sensor sector marking a revenue expansion of 31.8 percent,” said Ford. “Even more amazing is,” added Ford, “Sony’s CMOS image sensor revenues are forecast to more than double.”
Given that both Samsung and Apple use Sony’s image sensors in their flagship smartphones, Sony has reason to brag, and should be additionally noted for its continued efforts to develop more innovative image sensors.
Sony last year introduced what the company claims as the world’s first stacked CMOS image sensor, in which image sensor and circuit are mounted on top of one another, rather than side-by side across a supporting substrate. The structure reduces millimeters from its body, and it also offers high dynamic range (HDR) function. HDR enables two exposure conditions to be configured within a single screen when shooting, and seamlessly performs appropriate image processing to generate optimal images with a wide dynamic range and brilliant colors, even when pictures are taken against bright light, according to Sony.
With a fresh $994 million investment into Sony’s Nagasaki Technology Center, the home of its stacked CMOS image sensors, Sony has plans to increase total production capacity to 60,000 wafers per month by the end of September.