Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - Page 14 News List

iTV may hit shelves next Christmas, researcher says

NEXT BIG THING?Taiwanese firms Hon Hai and Catcher Technology are expected to reap significant benefits from the eagerly awaited launch of Apple’s new TV product

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Apple Inc is expected to launch its much-awaited iTV home media project during next year’s Christmas shopping season at the earliest after the US company’s long-term manufacturing partner Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) sent its TV products for certification, a local market researcher forecast.

The projection is among the latest speculation about the release date of Apple’s new TV product after Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams earlier this month that “[television is] a market that we have intense interest in.”

Hon Hai and local component suppliers, such as metal casing maker Catcher Technology Co (可成), would benefit most from the release of iTV, Taipei-based market researcher Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業研究所) said on Wednesday.

“Hon Hai will play a key role in the launch of iTV because the company can obtain cost-efficient 60-inch displays from Sharp to help Apple sustain gross margin above 30 percent from iTV,” Topology president Simon Yang (楊勝帆) told a media gathering.

Yang said Sharp Corp has reduced unit cost for 60-inch panels made in its 10th-generation LCD factory to US$405, equal to the price for a 55-inch panel produced from a 8.5-inch plant, after boosting factory utilization to 80 percent recently.

Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) holds a 37.61 percent share in Sakai Display Productions Co, which operates Sharp’s 10G panel factory in Japan, the world’s only 10G plant.

As long as gross margin could reach a respectable level, “Apple will be much more willing to roll out iTV,” Yang said. “Besides, Apple will need a new product to sustain its growth. It will be an important option for it to sell TVs for consumers’ living rooms.”

Hon Hai has sent 47-inch, 55-inch and 60-inch models to Apple for certification, targeting the North American market, Topology said.

Apple is expected to ship 1.5 million TVs around the globe in the initial stage, beginning in the fourth quarter of next year, or in 2014, Yang predicted. Half of the shipment would be 60-inch models, he said.

Apart from Apple, Hon Hai also assembles 60-inch TVs for Vizio Inc and other companies. Next year, Hon Hai is expected to ship as many as 3.5 million 60-inch TV set units, up from 2 million units this year, Topology forecast.

Taiwanese component makers would benefit from the growth because 80 percent of parts used in the 60-inch TVs came from local firms, Yang said.

Local power management supplier Delta Electronics Inc (台達電) and TV chip supplier MStar Semiconductor Inc (晨星半導體) would be another two beneficiaries, he said.

The popularity of 60-inch TVs would also spur demand for TVs with 50-inch and 55-inch screens, Topology said.

An increase in large-sized TVs would help boost demand for flat panels and digest capacity of local panel makers, such as Innolux Corp (群創光電) and AU Optronics Corp (友達光電).

“Innolux and AU Optronics will reduce their losses next year and will have a chance to eke out profits in 2014,” Yang said.

The share of 50-inch, 55-inch and 60-inch TVs would grow to 8 percent of an overall 214 million thin-screen TV units next year and would expand to 15 percent in 2015, when global flat-panel TV shipment would increase to 238 million units, Topology projected.

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