The new iPad -- not to be confused with the iPad 2 -- will go on sale tomorrow. Whether you actually get your hands on one will likely depend on your ingenuity or your willingness to camp out overnight in front of a retail store. It has been widely anticipated that iPad supply will not meet demand, and IHS iSuppli has given some indication why: There are not enough displays.
The displays on the new iPad are getting rave reviews. Apple is releasing a product with the new, higher-resolution Retina displays, instead of a smaller, less expensive iPad, as was anticipated just a few weeks ago. (See: Behind Apple's Alleged Move to Small Screens.) Here is some of the feedback.
First, from the New York Times:
In principle, that avalanche of pixels (and their increased color saturation) means that photos, videos, maps and text should look jaw-droppingly good -- and, in apps that have been rewritten for the new screen, they do. Apple’s own apps, like Photos, Maps and iBooks, are just incredibly sharp and clear.
Here's a review from the Wall Street Journal:
Using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescription -- you suddenly realize what you thought looked sharp before wasn't nearly as sharp as it could be.
IHS iSuppli reports that Sharp and LG Display, two of the three display makers that supply Apple, have had difficulty reaching production volumes:
Although they are currently shipping displays in small quantities, LGD and Sharp are expected to ramp up volume production of new iPad displays in April. IHS predicts that Apple is likely to begin shipping new iPads with displays from these suppliers in the second quarter.
Sharp is working with a new IGZO technology that enables higher resolutions. The company now is working to ramp up the production of IGZO TFT panels at its Gen 8 fab in Kameyama, Japan, but the company is experiencing manufacturing problems that could affect both the availability of displays for a full rollout of the new iPad, as well as the cost of the iPad displays.
LGD has been pioneering the use of advanced in-plane switching (IPS) display technology, particularly in media tablet displays. The company is the leader of the media tablet display market, with a 44 percent share of global unit shipments for full year 2011. Samsung, in comparison, accounted for 35 percent share of the tablet display segment, with Taiwanese and Chinese display suppliers making up the remainder of the market share.
The display situation is curious on a number of levels. First, the LCD display market has been suffering for months and is so challenging that Samsung is spinning off its display business. (See: Is Samsung LCD Spinoff the Right Move?) In its most recent quarterly report, LG blamed the display business for its less-than-stellar performance. Sharp has been fairly quiet of late.
There is no shortage of capacity, at least for last-generation displays. There seems to be a big opportunity here for display makers, but they have missed the boat.
In the meantime, Samsung and Apple are embroiled in a number of lawsuits. This is not to imply Samsung is holding back. In fact, the buzz about the new iPad suggests it stands to clean up on display sales. Displays are now arguably the biggest and most important feature of a tablet, with battery life being a close second.
So it appears Apple didn't underestimate demand for the iPad. It underestimated its suppliers' production ability. In spite of their long manufacturing history, displays are actually tricky things to make. Any change in panel size can set off a whole chain reaction of problems. And a display as eye-popping as the Retina no doubt has a new set of challenges. So if you cannot get your iPad tomorrow, blame the display industry. But it sounds like the display might be worth the wait.