Reuters on Sony Image Sensor Business

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Reuters publishes an article talking on Sony image sensor business excessive dependence on smartphone market. So far, everything looks perfect:
  • Sony expects its sales of imaging sensor chips to jump 16 percent to 360 billion yen ($3.52 billion) in the year ending this month.
  • "Some smartphone makers are upgrading their front-facing cameras for users who want sharper self-portraits, and that has opened up a whole new market for Sony," said Yutaka Okamoto, president of the company's device division. "Several fast-growing Chinese smartphone makers, keen to move upmarket, are also beginning to put in orders for Sony's high-spec chips. Sony has calculated that capacity at its existing factories would be unable to keep up with demand by mid-2015, even with a drop in demand for compact camera sensors."
  • Macquarie Capital Securities director of research Damian Thong estimates the sensor business earns an operating margin of 10% to 15%. Sony says its global market share for smartphone image sensors is at 44 percent, mainly in the back-facing cameras used to snap photos.
  • Chinese smartphones from fast-growing manufacturers such as Xiaomi tout high-end, made-in-Japan parts as a selling point
But there are some signs for the changes in future:
  • Sony's device business is increasingly tied to the smartphone market.
  • Okamoto plays down worries that smartphone growth might peak out within the next few years, citing a number of other promising markets for image sensors. "Our hope is that wearables are next. We also expect to see increasing demand for sensors used in medical devices, autos, and in agriculture," he said.
  • Sony faces a rising threat from Samsung Electronics. Samsung's newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, is due to be fitted with a Samsung's own image sensor, with Sony no longer the main supplier. "The fact that Samsung makes their own products on their own line with their own technology, that's a threat," Okamoto said.

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