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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobileApplehardwaretelecommunicationhardware systemslaptopsnetbooksiSuppliMobile and WirelessCorning

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?