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Apple, Samsung in talks over displays for iPad 3

Samsung's Galaxy S 2 smartphones (Yonhap News)
Samsung's Galaxy S 2 smartphones (Yonhap News)

‘Apple COO Tim Cook visited Korea to discuss bilateral cooperation’

Apple Inc.’s chief operating officer Tim Cook discussed adopting Samsung’s AMOLED display technology for tablet PCs during his recent visit to South Korea, industry sources said.

“Apple wants to tap into Samsung’s AMOLED technology for an upgraded version of the iPad 2, considered as many by the iPad 3 that is likely to be launched toward the end of this year,” a source told The Korea Herald on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Tim Cook is not only the COO, but also acting CEO of Apple. During Cook’s trip last week, Apple seems to have offered Samsung an advance for the AMOLED displays, the source said.

The California-based company currently uses liquid crystal displays in its iPad lineup, including the iPad 2 it launched in March this year.

Samsung does not yet use AMOLED displays for its tablet PC, the Galaxy Tab, but its Galaxy S 2 smartphones are fitted with the super-AMOLED display. The local firm is now said to be mulling over using the display for its second generation of tablet PCs.

A Samsung Mobile Display spokesperson said he had not heard of such discussions with Apple.

Reports of Apple’s offer come despite a legal spat between the world’s two most powerful electronics companies over patent infringements.

Previously, there had been contradictory assessments over whether AMOLED technology is compatible with tablet PCs, but AMOLED displays have improved to the point where they are now considered to have significant advantage over LCDs.

Super AMOLED displays, for instance, tout brighter screens, less sunlight reflection and reduced power consumption.

Apple’s shift to AMOLED spells much trouble for LG Display, one of Apple’s main suppliers for LCDs and Samsung’s main rivals.

LG Display, a top global manufacturer of liquid crystal displays, supplies Apple with the iPad displays.

Speculation has it that the company may try to hold Apple’s attention by adding a new display assembly line at its Gumi plant in order to meet the growing demand for the iPad 2.

LG Display churns out flat panels from its Gumi plant, mostly to be fitted into PC monitors or tablet PCs.

For LG -- which is not authorized to confirm that it supplies to Apple -- the demand from Apple is a double-edged sword.

A partnership with Apple indicates LG holds its own in the display industry.

On the other hand, industry watchers note that LG Display is not making a lot of monetary gain out of the deal as Apple is known for its low-price policies.

“Look at the price of those tablet PCs and those smartphones. Only Apply can go down that low, and that’s because it squeezes its partners and suppliers to also get down as low as they can,” said one executive at a local company who declined to be identified.

The price tag for the iPad 2 starts at $499 for the wi-fi only model.

LG Display incurred a second-straight quarter operating loss during the January-March period this year.

Quarterly sales stood at 5.3 trillion won, down 17 percent from the previous fourth quarter, and 9 percent lower from the same period last year.

Adding to its profit and Apple woes, overseas buyers such as Hewlett Packard and Dell have reportedly recently cancelled display shipments from LG Display.

LG Display now has its hopes pinned on the rising popularity of 3-D TVs -- which have been receiving better reviews than Samsung’s 3-D TVs due to the price competitiveness and easy-to-use eyewear -- to help it bounce back.

Another positive bit of news is the rising price of liquid crystal display panels. The prices rose for the first time in 20 months earlier this month, industry data showed.

The price of 40- to 42-inch LCD panels for TVs stood at $235 in early May, up $3 from late last month, according to market research firm DisplaySearch.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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