Tablet Computers Impact Electronic Components Supply Chain

Component suppliers for tablet computers are shifting into overdrive.

Last week, Elizabeth Woyke at Forbes reported that one Chinese supplier of iPad components shipped more than 6 million parts to Apple during the third quarter of the year. This same supplier expects to ship 7 million more in the fourth quarter.

The article also says that Brian White, an analyst from Ticonderoga Securities, has heard that sales numbers for the iPad could reach a whopping 45 million in 2011.

Of course, this is all speculation because Apple, staying true to form, remains tight-lipped about its iPad sales figures. We know that the company sold more than 3 million tablets in the first three months after its launch. However, no new numbers have been revealed since then. The most analysts can hope for is an update later this month when Apple reports its earnings.

(Just as a point of reference, let me offer this: As remarkable as it sounds, Johnny Evans at Computerworld estimates that an iPad is now sold every second of every minute of every day.)

And, don't expect demand in the electronics supply chain to diminish any time soon. It's widely believed that Apple plans to launch a smaller version of the iPad in 2011 (possibly as early as Q2), and the company has already widened its distribution. What's more, Samsung, Dell and Research In Motion are all entering the tablet market, too.

Will suppliers be able to keep up with the anticipated acceleration in demand? Or, will certain components remain in critically short supply? In either case, it's time for electronics manufacturers to confirm inventory and contract status with their strategic suppliers. I can't help but think that Apple's lead in the tablet market will afford it significant scale advantages and leverage in the electronics supply chain, and you don't want price shifts or a shortage to catch you off guard.

TAGS: Finance
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