Specialty microchips can be a confusing market at times. On the same day that Monolithic Power Systems (Nasdaq: MPWR) reports weak sales ahead and gets dinged like there's no tomorrow, rival ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ONNN) says that its order books look hunky-dory and the market merely shrugs. All of this comes only a week after third wheel Maxim Integrated Products (Nasdaq: MXIM), which competes in many of the same categories as the first two, got a massive overnight boost from its own positive outlook.

Who do you believe?

The easy answer is that each company stands alone -- the relative bleakness or sunshine of their reports should say something about who's a strong competitor and who isn't. ON claims to be taking market share in some product categories, and Monolithic would surely never cop to losing share but could very well be one of the victims.

In the third quarter, ON boosted GAAP earnings from $0.07 to $0.20 per share year-over-year while sales grew by 27% to $601 million. The company is in the midst of buying Sanyo Semiconductor from Sanyo parent Panasonic (NYSE: PC), and the $366 million cash-and-stock deal will add an instant revenue boost of about $300 million per quarter. ON's margins are among the thinnest in its sector of the chip market and far behind perennial outperformers National Semiconductor (NYSE: NSM) or Analog Devices (NYSE: ADI), but the company seems to have a good thing going here and should be able to improve margins by squeezing synergy juice out of the Sanyo deal.

Will the Sanyo deal transform ON from a middle-of-the-pack performer into a power-control powerhouse? Only time will tell as the end result depends on a painless integration process. Add ON to your Foolish watchlist to keep a close eye on how this marriage plays out.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.