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OmniVision Loses It Again

It's official: I'm going to quit making iPhone design win calls on OmniVision Technologies (Nasdaq: OVTI  ) . Leading up to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone 5 launch, I figured that surely the company would be a winner this year, judging by its stupendous sequential guidance increase.

When the company reported its last quarter, it forecasted all-time record revenues of $355 million to $390 million. The midpoint of management's outlook is nearly $100 million higher than the company's current quarterly revenue record, which I saw as very strong evidence that the company had scored the primary image sensor slot in the iPhone 5. After all, would you think the same thing after seeing this chart?

Sources: Morningstar, SEC filings.

When rival Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) won the spot in the iPhone 4S, you can clearly see how that loss weighed on OmniVision's top line over the past four quarters relative to the four before that.

Well, my Foolish readers, I must inform you that I was wrong yet again, and that Sony has indeed held down its camera win, as revealed by Chipworks. That gives me a tally of 0-2 over the past two years, since I also confidently predicted OmniVision last year and was sadly proven wrong then as well. However, it wasn't a total iPhone loss for OVT, though, since it continues to source the secondary front-facing camera and Apple has upgraded that sensor to a 1.2-megapixel backside-illuminated shooter, up from a VGA resolution, which should fetch more dollars for OmniVision.

Fellow Fool Anders Bylund entertains some other potential reasons for the rosy forecast, but it's also worth noting that adjusted earnings per share are expected to fall 40%, which suggests that OmniVision is winning low-margin spots in other devices instead of the iPhone.

It's theoretically still possible that Apple is dual-sourcing, as so far we've seen only one unit (hardly a representative sample size), but if it pans out the way it did last year, Sony might just be Apple's main camera flame.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 11:30 AM, psuschooley wrote:

    It's official: I'm going to quit making investment decisions based on Evan Niu's "information."

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