Apparently, Apple is now responsible for via killing hardware innovation throughout the industry, at least according to John Biggs.
Remember when Apple bought up all the Flash memory? Well, Apple has also cornered the market in touchscreens. A few months ago I spoke to one inventor who had a horrible time trying to grab capitative touchscreens for a project, even at the smaller electronics markets. Manufacturers knew that something from Apple was about to drop so they drove up prices, resulting in a standstill in innovation.
By pricing the iPad at about $500 on a good day, Apple has forced Asia’s hand. The company clearly did plenty of deals with Foxconn and the rest of the suppliers down the line and while folks like LG are making a mint on screens and other components, they have essentially closed the spigot overseas leading companies like Asus and Acer to announce that they won’t try to compete.
This also explains why other companies just couldn’t get past the resistive touchscreen for so long. Suppliers knew that Apple was sniffing around and so they kept prices high. As a result we had almost two years of me-too garbage coming out of Samsung, Sony, and Nokia until – at long last – the smaller touchscreens are ubiquitous.
First: Where’s the actual evidence that Apple ever bought up all the flash memory? Sure, there was a rumour they had bought a vast amount of supply. But as I remember it, other manufacturers seemed to have no problems shipping the hundreds of products which also feature flash memory. And prices for flash devices as a whole came down.
Second: high quality capacitive glass might well be in short supply. Apple might well have bought up a lot of supply from key manufacturers. And John’s friend who wanted 100 or 1,000 panels for whatever his project was might well have found it hard to buy them in those numbers.
But do you seriously think for one second that if Nokia or Samsung (who MAKE panels) or any other major player wanted to launch a product and went to a manufacturer with a potential order for 10 million panels, they wouldn’t find a way to get what they wanted?
If Nokia went to a manufacturer of capacitive touch screens and said “Hey, we’d like to buy lots of them. By the way, we sell three times as many phones as Apple” who do you think that manufacturer would make first in line for supply?
Sure, it might take some time to make it happen. But the biggest customers get the best deals, and in LCDs Apple is by no means the biggest customer.
Third: Apple is a master of supply chain management. One of the main characteristics of the Steve Jobs era is that, thanks largely to terrific work by Tim Cook, it does not hold much inventory. And that includes inventory of parts. The idea that Apple is buying up a year’s worth of any kind of part is laughable.