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Industry News

Crystal Oscillator Veterans Face Growing Challenge from Silicon Upstarts

June 18, 2009
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Vendors of crystal oscillators are the guardians of a design and manufacturing tradition going back to the early 20th century, and some of today’s market participants trace their origins to those early days. Their products, evolved over more than 75 years, require craftsmanship and exacting fabrication skills to produce, and are found in a vast array of electronic equipment to this day.

Yet now, the market position of the crystal oscillator is threatened by a new set of devices grouped under the label “silicon timing solutions.” The fortunes of these two contenders are tracked in a new study from ABI Research.

According to research director Lance Wilson, “There’s a growing battle for market share between silicon timing solutions and the traditional quartz oscillator and its derivatives. Right now, silicon timing solutions have about 20% of the market, but ABI Research forecasts that percentage to nearly double within five years.”

Virtually every device that contains an IC or generates a radio signal needs these devices. The incentives for equipment manufacturers to switch to silicon timing solutions? They are generally less expensive, more robust, and can integrate other functions onto the chip. But although great strides have been and will be made, they do not yet equal crystal oscillators in accuracy and stability. So, says Wilson, “There are still applications where silicon timing solutions aren’t yet adequate to replace a crystal oscillator.”

In order to maximize their long-term chances of holding market share, many crystal oscillator vendors are focusing on military, aerospace and industrial markets where accuracy is at a premium and buyers are somewhat less price-obsessed. Silicon timing solution vendors, on the other hand, see fertile territories in mainstream computing and consumer electronics with MIDs and netbooks two particularly active new segments.

ABI Research’s new study, “The Timing Solutions Market,” examines the major categories of timing solutions and presents both market share data for the major device vendors and five-year forecasts in a multiple scenario context. It offers detailed discussions of both the applications and the timing solutions for those applications. The report also reviews the transition from quartz crystal controlled oscillators to complex silicon timing solutions ICs.


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