Phenomenal recent earnings reports are in from the smartphone and tablet bellweather, Apple (cf. FT.com). The earnings far beat expectations, showing unparalleled growth in Apple's tablet (15m iPads in 2010) and smartphone (86% rise in iPhone sales year-over-year for 2010, equating to over 47million units according to figures from DigiTimes 1/19/11) segments (cf. this FT.com report). Whither Apple goes for these two segments, minimally, so goes the suppliers to these devices. After all, these numbers represent significant volume in the market and therewith, all the components.
One component that has particularly flourished thanks to Apple's feature sets in iPads and iPhones, is the touch screen panel. As a result, the 2010 growth for touch-panel providers were very strong, particularly for those that supply Apple devices (e..g, TPK Touch Solutions and Wintek). However, as analysts anticipate a slow 1Q11 for these devices from Apple, due to the expected March-April release of iPad2, there has been a noticeable slowing of 10-15% in sales for the touch-panel market at these device sizes (cf. DigiTimes 1/19/11 and 1/18/11).
Meanwhile, as underscored at this year's CES, tablets and smartphones continue to be in the limelight, and the touch-panel is a critical component. We see this situation play out in the supply chain for these devices, as more competitors present their CE devices, demand from consumers is surging, and the supply chain for touch panels is in a growth and maturing phase. This is particularly seen at the Southern Taiwan Science Park (STSP), "as more and more Taiwan-based players are joining the market." (cf. DigiTimes 1/14/11 and 1/18/11). Suppliers are working together, enriching the supply chain and some, such as G-Tech Optoelectronics, a Foxconn Group affiliate, are even moving to providing "a front- to back-end touch panel production line [at STSP]." (cf. DigiTimes 1/14/11 and 1/18/11).
The forecast for touch-panels? According to the recent Special Report, "Greater China touch panel market" by Jason Yang for DigiTimes, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the 2009-2013 period is forecasted to be 18.3%. Those are strong numbers for the small-to medium-size market segments. However, touch-panel growth is not restricted, large-size (10-inch+) is also forecasted at 18.8%. (These larger panels are primarily found in industrial and enterprise applications.)