With what might turn out to be impeccable timing, Matsushita Electric Industrial is shipping what Panasonic is touting as a breakthrough technology called nuMAICOVICON to replace CCD and conventional CMOS for camera loaded mobile phones. Imagine a technology that’s as cheap and cheerful on power consumption as CMOS, but delivers CCD quality, add in a good chuck of production and the Panasonic people could have a product that will save quite a few purchasing managers’ careers. This isn’t a future technology story: Panasonic are deadly serious. They have already started banging out about 2.2 million of the 1.3 megapixel version now, are adding a 2 megapixel version next month and want to ramp to 8 million units a month by October! WOW!
Take a look at this: While the press release will tell you that the technology achieves the smallest 2.8 micron-square pixel size for mobile phones, at a press briefing today the company revealed something to get the CMOS engineers hot headed; power consumption is 2.9V/ 25mW, which is only about 20% of CCDs but delivers CCD performance.
In more detail, the 2.8 mm-square pixel size available for mobile phone use enables to layout 1.3 megapixels on a 1/4-inch sensor with a diagonal length of 4.5mm, while 2 megapixel models will cover only an area of 5.6mm diagonal length. The company also claims to have developed a new signal read-out technology, which consumes only about one-fifth of the power required for a CCD image sensor with the same number of pixels.
According to Panasonic, they can go to 3 and 4 megapixel soon enough, but first they are looking to make a killing on the mobile phone camera market. In a series of interviews with WWJ, Panasonic intends – or is on the point of – shipping the technology into its own Panasonic brand. WWJ readers will know exactly what Panasonic is planning on that front.
But of course, the ramp to 8 million units a month also shows how serious the company is selling to other makers. In our interviews, it emerged that the first units will be sucked in by in-house sales, but as the company really ramps, they are looking to go to all the household names you can imagine.
In terms of market potential, well, there are some crazy figures out there. About 60 million camera enabled phones were shipped last year, according to one estimate we’ve read, gaining an 15% share of the total global cell phone market. IC Insights, for example, now sees this market growing much faster than the total cell phone business, taking nearly half of the 2007 market — 335 million phones out of a total market of 650 million.
And what timing! Regular readers will know that concerns are high that there simply will not be enough camera modules of either CMOS or CCD modules out there next year. In fact in a previous program we heard IDC’s Mitch Kimura saying lack of availability of high-end components could delay a massive rollout of 2 megapixel phones this year.
In flash, along comes Panasonic with what it thinks will be the answer. We’ve seen some pretty capricious estimates of the number of camera-enabled mobile phones out there, but Panasonic’s seems reasonable. The company believes that it can get a 30% share of the global CCD/ CMOS market.
– The Editors