Research In Motion’s upcoming PlayBook tablet was delayed due to Apple swallowing up manufacturers’ touch-panel capacity, according to a new report in DigiTimes.
The 7-inch PlayBook will hit store shelves April 19 in the United States and Canada, with a starting price of $499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB, and $699 for the 64GB version. That places the device roughly in the middle of pricing for the red-hot tablet market—not to mention toe-to-toe with the iPad 2, whose 16GB version retails for $499, 32GB for $599, and 64GB for $699.
“Sources from touch-screen panel makers also pointed out that PlayBook shipments were postponed for about a month from the original schedule due to a delay in software testing,” read DigiTimes’ April 7 report, “as well as shortage of touch panels because Apple already booked up most of the available capacity.” It added that Foxlink, one prominent supplier, is tasked with shipping components for both RIM and Apple.
A RIM representative told eWEEK that the company will not comment “on rumors and speculation.”
Since the debut of the original iPad in 2010, manufacturers and pundits have kept an eye on the bestselling tablet’s potential effect on the worldwide electronics supply chain. In addition to Apple, other beneficiaries from a blockbuster iPad include the components makers who craft the touch-screen and its underlying hardware, including the battery.
At the same time, however, even the largest manufacturer boasts only so much capacity; and, presumably, other tablet-makers who want to use the same or similar parts could find their supply and timetables squeezed by the insatiable demand for the iPad. Rumors have also circulated that Apple made a $3.9 billion investment in touch-screen displays, which could limit the supply pool available to other manufacturers.
Possibly compounding the situation is the recent Japanese earthquake, which took several electronics factories offline. An IHS iSuppli teardown of the iPad 2 identified at least five components sourced from Japanese companies. While some suppliers reported their fabrication facilities undamaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, difficulties in shipping and trouble with the electricity grid could continue to make delivering components a challenge. That could affect not only Apple’s plans, but also those of other tablet-makers.
The iPad 2 components sourced from Japan, said IHS iSuppli, include NAND flash from Toshiba; DRAMs (dynamic RAMs) from Elpida Memory; an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor; a system battery from Apple Japan; and the iPad 2’s touch-screen overlay glass, which some analysts suspect comes from Asahi Glass.
Unlike most of the tablets poised to hit the market over the next few quarters, which rely on Google’s Android for an operating system, the PlayBook uses a proprietary operating system developed in-house by RIM, using assets acquired during the April 2010 takeover of QNX Software Systems.
By Carl W. Brooks