According to a survey by the market research company “Visant Strategies”, worldwide turnover of crystals totalled 3.1 billion US$ in 2008, with 4.3 billion forecast for 2013. The potential for replacement technologies is therefore very high, but there are also difficult obstacles to overcome. The manufacture of crystals and crystal oscillators has progressed through a learning curve over many years, it is therefore mature and thus very cost-effective.
Furthermore, a competing technology has entered the market a few years ago, which also wants a part of the cake. These are MEMS-based oscillators, which are now ready for commercial exploitation and which are supplied by manufacturers such as SiTime or Discera. MEMS oscillators can be manufactured with methods similar to those employed in CMOS production, they are also very small, incredibly precise (+/- 10 ppm and better), but not very cheap.
A 12 MHz oscillator with a precision of+/-50 ppm, for example, costs approx. 1.40US$ in 1k quantities, while IDT indicates a unit price of approx. 0.55 US$ for their first oscillator MM8202 (+/- 400ppm) for 1k quantities. MEMS oscillators also have the disadvantage that they are mechanic oscillators and that they are affected by shocks and vibrations exactly in the same way as crystals. Furthermore, base frequencies are not freely configurable, the usual values are in the area of a few MHz. MEMS oscillators therefore usually require PLL circuits in order to obtain specific frequencies, plus specific excitation circuits for electrostatic excitation and, similar to CHOs, extensive compensation electronics, since their temperature dependence is not nearly as good as with crystals.
All this also affects power consumption, pure CMOS solutions are almost unbeatable in this area. For example, the MM8202 requires a maximum current of 2.5 mA (without output load) when powered at 1.8V and of 1 μA with the output switched off. MEMS oscillators, however, tuck in a lot harder - a comparable oscillator with this technology consumes approx. 3 to 5 times more power.