BY | November 30, 2011

Apple Inc. is going to use screens made by Sharp Corp. in its next-generation iPad or iPad 3. This move is a bid to introduce diversity among the Apple component suppliers.

It was also said that Apple’s next iPad is expected to launch next year and will boast LCD panels screens made in Sharp’s Kameyama No. 2 plant in central Japan.

Apple is also investing in facilities at Sharp’s panel manufacturing factories in Japan, though the amount involved has not been made public. The Osaka-based company makes liquid crystal displays that are used in tablets, smartphones and flat-screen televisions.

This will not be a first Apple order for Sharp as it already supplies LCD panels for Apple’s iPhone smartphones. Sharp will continue to supply screens for next gen iPhone, which is expected to be launched next year.

Mikio Katayama, Sharp Corp president, said, “The company will become a new supplier of screens used in the iPad, people familiar with the situation.”

Apple is typically known to be secretive about the names of its component suppliers.

Last month Apple sold 11.1 million iPads in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 24, compared with 4.2 million a year earlier. In that quarter, the company’s profit rose 54% from a year earlier to $6.6 billion, while revenue rose 39% to $28.27 billion.

The venture is also a part of the plan of Sharp to reduce making bigger screens for televisions and increase the production of smaller screens, like the ones for iPads, smartphones and tablets.

Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Nobuo Kurahashi explained this change saying, “This would allow Sharp to count on a more stable sales volume and would help its technology gain more attention.”

Kurahashi also added that “it would be a stretch to assume that Apple’s choice of display panel suppliers has been affected by its patent issues with Samsung, when cost and specific technological requirements are crucial to the products’ success.”

Sharp’s Kameyama No. 2 plant in Mie Prefecture has so far only produced LCD panels for TVs. However, at the beginning of this year Sharp had announced that it will start mass-producing smaller displays for mobile devices by the end of this year. This looks like a confirmation of Apple’s move.

Moreover, Sharp is also said to be the number one contender to make screens for the rumoured iTV.

Analyst Peter Misek said, “Apple has invested between $500 million and $1 billion in Sharp display technologies, effectively dispelling the possibility that IPS would be included in the iPad 3.”

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