iPad 2 supplies could be hurt by Japanese quake...
28 March 2011

iPad 2 supplies could be hurt by Japanese quake...

The Apple iPad 2 may be another victim of the Japanese earthquake, warns a technology research firm. The reason: the tablet uses a range of components from Japanese vendors, who face supply, manufacturing, and shipping challenges in the quake's aftermath.

These possible disruptions come as Apple is trying to maintain or even increase iPad 2 supplies to face continued, very strong consumer demand in the U.S. The analysis by IHS iSuppli, based in part on its disassembly of the iPad 2, identifies the tablet's electronic compass, battery, memory chips, and possibly the specialized glass in the display could be in short supply in short order.

Specifically, the firm's tear-down analysis found five parts from Japanese vendors: NAND flash by Toshiba, dynamic random access memory (DRAM) by Elpida Memory, the electronic compass by AKM Semiconductor, the touch screen's glass overlay sheet, which iSuppli says is "likely" by Asahi Glass, and the tablet's battery, by Apple Japan. "While some of these suppliers reported that their facilities were undamaged, delivery of components from all of these companies is likely to be impacted at least to some degree by logistical issues now plaguing most Japanese industries in the quake zone," according to iSuppli.

The impact could result from possible difficulties in getting raw materials to manufacture the iPad components and from shipping the finished products out. Another possible problem is employee absences due to transportation system problems. "The various challenges are being compounded by interruptions in the electricity supply, which can have a major impact on delicate processes, such as semiconductor lithography," according to iSuppli.

Finally, the continued aftershocks are disrupting chipmaking facilities. "Earthquakes ranging from 4 to 7 on the Richter scale will make it impossible to really restart these fabs until the earthquakes stop happening with such frequency," said Dale Ford of HIS iSuppli. "Every time a quake tops 5, the equipment automatically shuts down." Even if the Japanese suppliers do run into ongoing problems, it's hard to evaluate how great the impact might be on iPad 2 supplies, or how long it might last. That's because companies like Apple routinely have backup suppliers who can step in quickly to make up for shortages or supply chain disruptions.

According to iSuppli, the Toshiba NAND chips could be replaced by products from South Korea's Samsung Electronics, or U.S. memory vendor Micron Technology. Alternatives also exist for the Elpida DRAM.