A Gamble on a $399 Digital Camera: "Some analysts have suggested that Foveon technology may be bypassed as the consumer marketing effort pushes simplistic measures of picture quality like how many million pixels the camera sensor has. 'We are faced with a very active market with formidable competitors,' said Federico Faggin, a well-known Silicon Valley engineer who was the co-inventor of the microprocessor and who joined Foveon as chief executive last August. 'We are hoping that our technology will rise above the noise.'"
More than 41 million digital cameras were sold in 2003 worldwide, according to the InfoTrends Research Group, a market research company based in Norwell, Mass. That number is expected to grow to 53 million this year, creating a $17.9 billion market, the company said.
Moreover, the marketplace could be transformed when a new generation of camera phones that can take video, as well as still images, arrives perhaps next year. If that power-hungry function proves popular, Foveon's sensor chips with their low power use would have a significant advantage.
"If the idea of a camcorder in a cellphone catches on, there's an immense market," said George Gilder, the technology analyst who has written a book about the work of Carver Mead, a pioneering physicist who founded Foveon in 1997. Foveon executives say they are in conversations with cellular telephone makers, but no deals have been completed. Analysts disagree over how much the current digital photography and camcorder markets will be affected by cellphones."