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iPad, others draining Asia of electronic components

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The launch this year of must-have gadgets such as the iPad, the iPhone 4 and a host of other smartphones, tablet computers and 3D televisions is draining the Asian market dry of electronic components.

An iPad is sold on average every 2.3 seconds, with three million sold in the first 80 days after its launch in the U.S. in April. Three million iPhone 4 smartphones were also sold in only three weeks since its June release.

The increase in demand has made this a hot summer so far for Taiwanese touchscreen maker Wintek, and not just because temperatures have risen to abnormally high levels.

Located in the central Taiwanese city of Taichung, the company has struggled to keep up with insatiable demand for its high-tech components.

“The strong demand exceeds our expectations,” said a Wintek official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our clients keep pushing us to increase supplies.”

Wintek, whose customers reportedly include global brands such as Apple of the United States, Finland's Nokia and South Korea's LG, said the component shortage surfaced in the second quarter of the year.

Apart from a gradual global recovery, one of the triggers for the sudden spike in demand for components has been the launch of several much-anticipated products, especially the iPad tablet computer from Apple.

For many products, the lead time — the period from when a customer orders an item until he gets it — has expanded significantly beyond the usual 10 to 12 weeks, according to iSuppli, an electronics industry research firm.

“When lead times enter the 20-week range, they indicate a major schism between component supply and demand,” said Rick Pierson, a senior analyst for semiconductors and component price tracking at iSuppli.

Matthew Chao, an analyst at Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute, said the iPad would continue to send ripple effects through the industry, causing demand to rise further.

For instance, HP and Acer are planning to unveil their own tablet computers in the third and fourth quarters, which will further boost demand for components, he said.

“The market for smartphones and tablet computers is looking very bullish, especially since the fourth quarter is the traditional high season for the holidays,” he said.

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 iPad, others draining Asia of electronic components 
In a picture taken on Saturday, July 17, a customer walks past touchscreen adverts and products at a computer shop in Taipei. The launch this year of must-have gadgets such as the iPad, the iPhone 4 and a host of other smartphones, tablet computers and 3D televisions is draining the Asian market dry of electronic components. (AFP)

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