WSJ article "How Sony Makes Money Off Apple’s iPhone" shows TSR 2014 pie chart on image sensor market shares:
“Unlike memory chips, making image sensors requires craftsmanship, and that’s not something competitors can copy in the short term,” says Hideaki Miwa, analyst at Techno Systems Research Co.
According to the Tokyo research firm, Sony sold 40% of all image sensors last year, up from 35% in 2013. OmniVision’s market share was 16%, followed by 15% for Samsung. Total sales of image sensors grew to an estimated $8.65 billion last year, up more than 80% since 2009.
Some analysts say keeping up with demand might be Sony’s biggest immediate challenge. In the long run, Sony could be vulnerable because of its dependence on Apple, which sometimes has shifted suppliers with little warning.
Satoru Oyama, a semiconductor analyst at research firmIHS Inc., says Apple likely would consider buying image sensors for iPhones elsewhere if another company could match Sony’s quality and price.
“Sony can keep its position for at least a few years, but five years from now? There are no guarantees,” Mr. Oyama says.
In an interview to WSJ, Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai says:
"I think one of the things we certainly pride ourselves on with our image sensors is our commitment to stay at least several years ahead of the competition and to make sure that we make the heavy R&D investments to make sure that we are there, ahead of the competition. Whether it’s a device that goes into other manufacturers’ products, or sometimes our own, if there’s innovation there, and innovation therefore means a business opportunity, that’s something I get excited about, and so do the people who run our device business."