The battle for iPad market shares will hit yet another peak soon as market sources said Apple Inc. is scheduled to launch its long talked about iPad Mini in the third quarter of this year to fight the alliance using Microsoft's tablet-friendly Window 8 software.
A local newspaper reported said Monday that the U.S. consumer electronics giant has picked manufacturing service providers for iPad Mini, which refers to iPad at cheaper prices ranging between US$249 and US$299.
Taiwan's Hon Hai Group -- the world's largest contract electronics maker which has long been a main assembler of Apple gadgets -- has again been selected as iPad Mini assembler, the paper said, adding that another Taiwanese company Pegatron Corp. has also won orders for iPad Mini assembling.
Other Taiwanese OEM and ODM makers in the Apple supply chain such as casing maker Catcher Technology, touch screen maker TPK, and backlight modulemaker Radiant Opto-Electronics will also benefit from the launch of iPad Mini, the paper said.
The following are excerpts from a special report in the Monday edition of the Commercial Times on the iPad Mini launch in Q3 and its possible impact:
Apple is scheduled to hold an investors meeting April 25 (Taipei time), during which Cupertino, California-based company will release its Q1 sales and profits. Local market analysts said Apple's Q1 business records should be better than expected.
As international stock markets have become volatile again over renewed euro zone debt problems, market analysts said "Apple concept" stocks such as Hon Hai, Pegatron, Catcher, TPK and IML could be bright stars in the local bourse this week.
Industry sources said iPad Mini supply chain has been scheduled to start shipment in Q3 and the volume is expected to hit 6 million units by the end of this year. None of the companies mentioned in the report would offer any comments.
Although Apple has almost dominated the tablet market, it began to face competition from Amazon's cheaper Kindle Fire last year. The competition has got even more intense this year. Google will collaborate with AsusTek to launch affordable price tablet in the second quarter of this year while the Window 8 alliance and Amazon are also scheduled to launch new tablets in Q3.
Still, some foreign financial analysts said they remain skeptical that Apple would launch a lower-priced version of the iPad lineup anytime soon since it just unveiled the new iPad last month.
Meanwhile, industry sources said local LCD panel makers will benefit from Apple's iPad boom. Overall sales of the new iPad and iPad 2 are forecast at 65 million to 70 million units this year.
As 7" tablets launched by Samsung and Amazon also enjoy brisk sales, the sources said, Apple plans to unveil 7.85" iPad Mini in Q3 to further expand its market shares.
According to the sources, AU Optronics will become an Apple tabletsupply chain member for the first time by providing 7.85" LCD panels for iPad Mini while Radiant Opto-Electronics and Coretronic Corp. will offer backlight modules and TPK and Wintek will supply touch screen. (April 16, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)