Following my discussion that SiTime is the fastest growing semiconductor company, I would like to discuss what precision analog and MEMS means to the semiconductor industry and why precision timing is now in the semiconductor sector.
In Deloitte’s Fast 500TM ranking of the fastest growing semiconductor companies in North America, MEMS companies are ranked as #1 and #2. SiTime is #1 and InvenSense is #2. These are not microprocessor companies, not memory companies, not RF companies, not general purpose linear companies, but rather companies that leverage precision analog and MEMS technologies.
Twenty years ago, MEMS was outside of the mainstream. Twenty years ago a colleague told me MEMS was destined to be a small side attraction in semiconductors, almost a curiosity. He said, “You are carrying a microprocessor on you, some memory, and analog circuits, but no MEMS components.” Well, now we rely on MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes, pressure sensors, filters, oscillators, and more. Virtually none of our new cars would run without MEMS, and MEMS timing is ubiquitous. And indeed, I am carrying MEMS in my phone.
But MEMS is shorthand for MEMS and precision circuitry. The small mechanical elements need very precise analog circuitry to work. And it is this marriage that is dominating the new applications. At SiTime we think of ourselves as a precision analog company that is enabled by MEMS. Or sometimes as a MEMS company that relies on precision analog. Both views are equally right; it is this combination that is critical.
This combination is why the incumbent quartz companies can’t build MEMS oscillators on their own. Most of them don’t have MEMS, and most of them don’t have precision analog. None of them have both. Precision timing used to be about quartz, but now it is about silicon. And that is why precision timing is now part of the semiconductor industry. Combine that with the growing need for timing, and you can see why MEMS and precision analog are at the core of the fastest growing semiconductor companies.