For some time, makers of components required to build today’s headline-grabbing electronics, such as touch-screen phones and tablets, have been eclipsed by big-named electronics firms. The times have changed and Apple is the prime example. The latest instance is a report suggesting the Cupertino, Calif. company wants to corner the market used to build high-resolution “retina” displays for the next generation of smartphones and tablets.
Apple has inked agreements with LG Display, Sharp and Toshiba Mobile Display, the three suppliers one analyst firm says makes the technology behind the new display. Competition for display components “has reached a fever pitch” straining availability, according to iSuppli.
The three component makers are responsible for advanced in-plane switching (IPS) and low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS). Not only is Apple paying up-front for future display supplies, the Cupertino, Calif. company is helping build the needed factories, iSuppli said Tuesday.
The only alternative to the two “retina display” technologies is active matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) used in many Android-powered devices. The one catch: of the two AMOLED suppliers, LG has a deal with Apple and Samsung likely will use its supply for its Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. The result: “the rest of the smart phone makers are caught between the two giants,” writes iSuppli analyst Vinita Jakhanwal.
The report dovetails with an earlier announcement by Apple of a $3.9 billion component deal. At the time, Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook would only say the agreement covered a strategic component. A similar $1 billion pact was made in 2005 by Apple to ensure flash memory supplies for its iPod and iPhone.
Since Frederick the Great and Napolean, the saying an army marches on its stomach has been a well-known military precept. In the age of touchscreen smartphones and tablets, a similar axiom could surround today’s technology: product popularity depends on its parts – and availability.