The MEMS sector seems to be the Mr Wimpy of the semiconductor industry. It is content to be led by its customers, whereas real semiconductor companies get out there and show potential customers the amazing thing which their products can do.
The chip business calls the process ‘pervasiveness’ – you look for new markets, identify possible customers, then tell them they need your product.
When TI first made transistors, they realized no one knew what transistors were or what they did so they built a radio – forever after known as a ‘transistor radio’. Then the world knew what a transistor was and did.
More to the point, the then TI CEO Pat Haggerty sent a bunch of the radios to IBM and back came huge orders for transistors to be put into computers. That’s the classic way to promote pervasiveness.
But not in the MEMs industry. At the Globalpress Summit Conference in San Francisco Scott Smyser, vice president and general manager of VT Technologies, said: “There are so many uses that it is really our customers who are driving us. It is hard to keep up with our customers.”
Mark Martin, vice president and general manager of Analog Devices, said: “We’ve been developing MEMS for 20 years and we’ve been shipping them to customers since the early 90s. We’ve shipped 400m sensors, accelerometers and gyros. But now, with iconic products like the iPhone and the Wii, it’s starting to get big.”
I asked Martin why the MEMS industry had to be led by its customers, rather than taking the normal semiconductor industry route of pro-actively promoting pervasion by showing what its products can do, and he replied: “That’s an excellent point. We have been a bit slow. We do help our customers. We provide algorithms and software. We’re not a one-way vendor – we educate the customers.”
C’mon you MEMS guys. MEMS are now cheap enough to go for consumer apps. Amaze us.