iPad 2's glass could be critical component in future shortages

iSuppli analyst points to reports of earthquake damage at Japanese plants that may provide glass overlay for Apple's tablet

Production of Apple's iPad 2 may be hit with component shortages caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, an analyst said today.

According to IHS iSuppli, one the likely suppliers of the iPad 2's hardened glass overlay is a Japanese company that last week acknowledged earthquake damage to one of three factories, while a second has been affected by a nearby fire.

"There are two major types of hardened glass that could be used by the iPad 2," said Wayne Lam, an analyst with iSuppli. "One is Corning's Gorilla Glass, and the other is Asahi Glass Co.'s Dragontrail Glass. "Both behave very similarly. They're still glass, but they're very flexible, hardened and scratch-proof."

Early last week, Tokyo-based Asahi Glass confirmed that one of its three glass-producing facilities had been "Partially damaged" and that it would take a month to restart production at the factory. A second plant even closer to Tokyo was also offline because of a fire at a neighboring oil refinery.

Asahi did not immediately reply to questions today about the status of its Japanese factories.

Lam and other analysts at iSuppli have speculated that Asahi is the supplier of the glass that protects the iPad 2's touchscreen.

While Lam said iSuppli is still "chasing down leads" to determine whether Asahi's glass is used on the iPad 2, the research firm said last week that the timing of the Japanese company's January announcement of Dragontrail, as well as tests it has run on the overlay, led it to believe Dragontrail Glass is being used.

The supplier of the iPad 2's electronic compass, AKM Semiconductor, which is also located in Japan, was not affected by the disasters of March 11 , Lam confirmed today.

Although much of the conversation about the impact on Apple has centered on NAND flash memory -- Apple consumes about 20 per cent of the world's production -- iSuppli noted today that damaged Japanese factories supply a quarter of the globe's silicon wafers and 70 per cent of the worldwide supply of the main raw material used to make printed circuit boards.

Shortages in those materials could impact Apple along with most other consumer electronics companies.

"What we don't know about Japan is how quickly these companies can get their production facilities back up," said Lam today. "That's the big question."

It's possible, for example, that some companies could boost production at unaffected plants, or retool other facilities they own outside Japan to manufacture their products. The latter, though, is difficult, said Lam, who noted that companies would have to "qualify" the new facilities with their customers before delivering components, a time-consuming process.

The picture should be clearer with the next few weeks.

"The Japanese companies have generally been very, very quiet about this," Lam said. "I would think we would know better within weeks, not months."

If production resumes at Japanese companies like Asahi in the next two weeks, the impact should be minor, said iSuppli in a research note published Monday, since downstream producers have stockpiles they can draw on.

Potential iPad 2 component shortages couldn't come at a worse time for Apple, which last week extended the delay between online ordering and shipping to 4-to-5 weeks, and which has faced long lines of customers at its retail stores.

"Right now they're running through that first batch of materials," said Lam, referring to the Chinese companies Apple contracts with to assemble the iPad 2. "The real problems could come for the second and third batches."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hardwaretelecommunicationMobile and WirelessiSupplihardware systemsCorninglaptopsmobilenetbooksApple

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?