Innolux hopes to boost touch screen use

LOWER COST::A Topology Research Institute staffer says the LCD panel maker has set ‘too aggressive’ a target because touch screens are not affordable right now

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - Page 13

Innolux Corp (群創光電) aims to increase the penetration rate of its touch panels used in notebooks and all-in-one PCs to 50 percent next year, a company executive said yesterday.

Only a very small portion of PCs worldwide are currently equipped with touch panels because of their high price and unattractive Windows 8 operating system, Innolux said.

It believes about 10 percent to 15 percent of notebook computers around the world will have touch screens at the end of this year, Innolux said.

To boost the penetration rate, the world’s No.4 LCD panel maker has developed low-cost touch screens by integrating touch sensors and LCD glasses, Jeffrey Yang (楊宏文), an associate vice president, told reporters during a touch screen trade show in Taipei.

Innolux plans to begin shipping the new low-cost touch screens later this quarter and expand its monthly output to around 200,000 units next quarter, Yang said. The low-cost screens are made on one-glass-solution technology, he said.

Innolux installed a new production line in a Chinese factory to produce the screens and is working to overcome a labor shortage problem to increase the factory’s output, Yang said. The company plans to recruit 3,000 workers, he said.

However, Harris Po (柏德葳), an analyst with local research firm Topology Research Institute (TRI, 拓墣產業研究所), is less optimistic, saying Innolux’s target was “too aggressive.”

“It could only be reached after touch screens become standard products, which can help drive the cost of touch screens to an affordable level,” Po said.

Local rival AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電), which is showcasing 19.5 inch and 21.5 inch touch screens at the touch screen show, has predicted that about 20 percent of its notebook computer panels will be touch screens at the end of this year.

Yang said the company is also set to ship new energy-saving touch screens using Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) technology by the end of this year.

As an IGZO screen only consumes one-third the power that average LCD screens consume, an “IGZO [panel] is important for tablets,” he said.

IGZO panels have been under the spotlight amid growing speculation that Apple Inc will have its new-generation iPhone, iPad and Macbook laptops equipped with the screens.

Japan’s Sharp Corp is the major IGZO panel manufacturer.

Innolux, which holds a 70 percent global share of the 4K2K TV panel market, expected 50 percent of its TV panels would be such ultra-high-definition panels next year, up from 10 percent estimated for this quarter, Yang said.

The company plans to more than double its output of 4K2K TV panels to 500,000 units a month by the end of this year, from 200,000 units currently.

Separately, Innolux and AUO yesterday said they did not plan to lower factory utilization because they expected demand to return soon, driven by the holiday shopping season in October in China, shopping for Christmas shopping in the US and Europe and then the Lunar New Year demand from Asia.

Innolux has seen demand recover this month and expects customers’ inventories to return to normal next month.

“We hope to keep our equipment loading rate at a stable and reasonable level,” Innolux spokesman Lin Chen-hui (林振輝) said. “The fourth quarter will be a better period than the third quarter.”

The company plans to maintain a factory utilization rate of more than 90 percent this quarter and next quarter, Lin said.