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

By , Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, Apple, glass

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% of the world's production -- iSuppli noted today that damaged Japanese factories supply a quarter of the globe's silicon wafers and 70% 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."


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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