Apple Devouring 60% of World Touchscreen Supply
According to upstream component manufacturers in China, Apple has already placed orders for approximately 60 percent of the world's touch panel supply
, setting the stage for major shortages in 2011. The report from DigiTimes says that this strategy will allow Apple to boost its sales in the coming year while simultaneously starving its competitors of supplies.
Manufacturers are telling DigiTimes
that Apple has reserved most of the production capacity of glass capacitive touch panels - like those found on the iPad - from two major suppliers, Wintek and TPK. This is causing RIM, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard to survive on whatever Apple leaves them, and forcing smaller "second-tier" manufacturers to do without. Some, like Samsung and Acer, are going with smaller suppliers, while others have to make do with TFT capacitive panels: basically larger versions of the screens used on some Android phones.
Apple COO Tim Cook told investors in January that the company had committed $3.9 billion to long-term component contracts
. At the time, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty noted that this amount of money would buy 60 million iPad displays, or 136 million iPhone touchscreens. This latest report is yet another piece of evidence that this is exactly what they've done. With other tablets just entering the market this year, the supply bottleneck means that competitors will have a hard time finding a foothold, almost guaranteeing Apple's continued dominance in a market they already control 95% of.
Apple's played this kind of hardball in the past: in 2005, they caused a worldwide shortage of NAND flash memory when they bought up 40% of Samsung's entire supply of 4 GB chips. That year, iPod sales surged with the introduction of the iPod nano, which was significantly cheaper than other flash-based media players at the time.