Taiwanese panel maker AU Optronics Co (AUO, 友達光電) is working with Apple Inc to mass produce a new iPad with a smaller screen, Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, but both companies declined to confirm the report.
Rumors about a smaller iPad have been swirling for months, but the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple’s component makers in China are gearing up for mass production of the device.
The US company has several suppliers, which include AU Optronics and LG Display (LGD) Co of South Korea, the report said, citing two anonymous sources.
The report added that the two Asian suppliers were getting ready for mass production in September and that the release date of the smaller iPad was close.
The new tablet’s screen is likely to be smaller than 8 inches, compared with Apple’s other tablets, which have 9.7-inch screens, the Journal reported, citing the anonymous sources.
A Taiwan-based research firm said that the market has been buzzing about the new device, which is likely to have a screen size of 7.85 inches.
“The first batch of panels is expected to be shipped by LGD this month and by AUO in August,” said Eric Chiou (邱宇彬), director of research at WitsView.
He estimated that LG Display would supply about 60 percent of the panels for Apple’s new tablet, while AU Optronics would supply the other 40 percent.
Shipments of the iPad 2, New iPad and the small-screen iPad would reach 59.6 million units this year, with the smaller version accounting for 15 percent of the total, he forecast.
AU Optronics is the second Taiwanese panel maker, after Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子), to join Apple’s tablet supply chain, which is a positive sign for AU Optronics’ development, Chiou said.
However, Apple faces tougher competition as Samsung Electronics Co, Amazon.com, Microsoft Corp and Google Inc roll out competing devices.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire proved popular last year and the small-format Google Nexus 7 has joined the Samsung Galaxy in the tablet market dominated by the iPad.
Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said with the new, smaller format proving popular, “I don’t think Apple has any choice but to go into this segment.”
He said the new Apple device “will both cannibalize 10-inch [iPad] sales and broaden the market, but it will also give Apple a line of offerings in what, prior to Apple, was not a one-size-fits-all world.”