Thursday, February 17, 2011

Apple secures 60% of global touch panel capacity, causing tight supply

In order to achieve its internal goal of shipping 40 million iPad products in 2011, Apple has occupied close to 60% of the global touch panel capacity causing tight supply among Apple's competitors, according to sources from upstream component makers.

Sources from tablet PC makers also pointed out that the component shortage is causing their shipment volumes to be unable to catch up with their orders, especially for second-tier players. Touch panels are currently suffering the most serious shortage due to Apple holding control over the capacity of major touch panel makers such as Wintek and TPK, and with US-based RIM, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard (HP) also competing for related components, second-tier players are already out of the game, the sources noted.

The sources pointed out that glass capacitive touch panels are the part that the second-tier players are unable to acquire, although thin-film capacitive touch panel makers are already capable of making their products fit onto tablet PCs, since thin-film technology still has obvious differences in terms of durability and feel compared to glass technology, despite that thin-film panels will still see demand from smartphones, tablet PCs are expected to be dominated by glass panels.

Sources from iPad distributors pointed out that in 2010, Apple's order forecasts to its OEM partners were all high and the biggest problem on the supply side was not capacity, but low yields of touch panels. In 2011, Apple's strategy of taking up most of the capacity should help the company quickly expand its sales, while reducing its competitors' shipment growth.

Several notebook brands such as Samsung Electronics, Acer and HP have all started turning to smaller touch screen suppliers helping players such as Sintek Photronic, Egalax-empia Technology (EETI), AimCore Technology and J Touch to see increasing utilization. Samsung's recent cooperation with Sintek was also meant to secure related supplies to avoid shortages ruining the vendor's product plans.

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