Often we will judge the popularity of Microcontrollers according to how popular they are on the internet. However this impression may not correlate well with the market ranks.
For example, the top 10 MCU vendors according to iSuppli are listed below (year 2006).
1. Renesas Technology
2. Freescale Semiconductor
3. NEC Electronics
4. Infineon Technologies
6. Microchip Technology
7. Matsushita Electric
10 Texas Instruments.
Of the 10 vendors, Freescale (HC08, HC12, 68k, ColdFire), Microchip (PIC, dsPIC), Ateml (AVR, ARM, AVR32) and TI (MSP430) are very popular from the amount of 3rd Party Internet resources. Interestingly they are all US companies. And I like to use them since they have relatively good documentations and many examples on the Internet. Better sampling policy may also contribute to their popularity. However, in reality, Japanese companies are very strong in MCU market as well. Now it seems that they are beefing up the documentation and start to offer cheaper development tools. Renesas is particularly getting better now.
With the top 10 companies, apparently Microchip is one of the smaller company in terms of turnover. But they are good at concentrating on their core competency (8bit) and branch into 16bit and lower end DSP market. Compared to a few year ago, the growth of Microchip is very remarkable. Maybe Japanese vendors should learn from Microchip by providing cheap development tools and easy sampling.