Next iPhone and iPad may be delayed 2 to 3 months

Investment analysts cite supply chain and production issues

The eagerly awaited new iPhone and iPad face a range of supply chain and production issues that may delay their introduction by two to three months, according to analysts at investment firms.

The expected launch of both the next iPhone and iPad may be delayed by two to three months, according to technology analysts at investments firms. Apple is still sorting out supply chain issues for iPhone 5, says one, and the iPad 2 has run into "production bottlenecks," says the second.

The expected launch of a new iPhone in June or July is likely to be delayed until September, because Apple is sorting out a number of supply chain issues and decisions, according to a research note to investors by Craig Berger, an analyst with investment bank FBR Capital Markets.

APPLE IPHONEYS: The iPhone 5 edition

The iPad 2's expected launch in April may be delayed until June because of bottlenecks at Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., caused when Apple made design changes before China's Lunar New Year, according to a report by Yuanta Securities analysts Vincent Chen and Alison Chen, as reported by Bloomberg

According to Bloomberg, Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong, declined to comment, and a calls to a spokesman for Hon Hai went unanswered.

Since the iPhone's June 2007 introduction, early summer has been the preferred launch period for all iPhone models.

"For the iPhone 5, we continue to hear that a July launch is unlikely, with various casing suppliers and touch suppliers still ramping up, with some chip vendors not having yet received firm iPhone 5 orders, and with other sockets like the image sensor (most likely going to Omnivision exclusively, but with some potential for Sony to split that socket) still in flux," Berger writes in a research note released today, and reported on by several Web news sites

"Given these factors, we think a September launch is more likely, off from Apple's traditional iPhone launch schedule, but giving the firm more time to enhance its next-generation instant communications on the phone," Berger writes.

But there's no indication Apple or its popular smartphone is faltering. Berger says his sources indicate that Apple intends to build 100 million iPhones in 2011. That's well ahead of previous Wall Street estimates, including that of FBR Capital Markets itself, which estimated 75 million. Berger also says Apple is now planning to build 45 million iPads, instead of the 38 million it previously planned.

But a delay in the iPad's launch date would directly affect those estimates.

In the Yuanta Securities report, the Chens estimate that a two-month delay in iPad 2's launch could cut 6 million units from the estimated unit shipments in 2011, to 23 million units, from the firm's original estimate of nearly 31 million, according to the Bloomberg story.

The Chens, as does Berger, rely on contacts within the Apple supply chain ecosystem. "Our checks suggest new issues are being encountered with the new [iPad] production and it is taking time to resolve them," according to the report. "As a number of Android 3.0 tablets are being launched in April and May, the delay in iPad 2 shipments may give the Android camp a brief window of opportunity."

Both products have been spectacularly successful for Apple. Bloomberg reports that the iPad, less than a year old, was 17% of Apple's sales in the last quarter, with more than 15 million sold by early February. The iPhone accounted for 39% of Apple's sales last quarter. Together, two products that didn't exist four years ago accounted for 56% of the company's sales last quarter.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

E-mail: john_cox@nww.com

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