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Apple-Designed PowerBook Trackpad Spells Concern for Parts Supplier

TMO Reports - Apple-Designed PowerBook Trackpad Spells Concern for Parts Supplier

by , 1:40 PM EST, February 7th, 2005

In a research note sent to clients Monday, Bear, Stearns & Co. cautioned that Apple's relationship with trackpad manufacturer Synaptics, Inc. is possibly in question following last week's introduction of updated PowerBooks. Apple's new PowerBook line-up features a new trackpad that supports scrolling functionality, akin to the scroll wheel found on mouse and trackball devices.

According to Bear Stearns, the new trackpad is not being manufactured by Synaptics, which has historically been Apple's sole supplier of such devices. Synaptics trackpads have been featured in iBooks, PowerBooks, and iPods.

"There are a lot of unknowns but what we do know is that TrackPad is not Synapticss' solution, nor is it Alps Electric's, Synaptics main competitor," Bear Stearns analyst Andrew J. Neff said in the note, obtained by The Mac Observer. "Rather, it is a multi-ASIC solution that appears to have been developed by AAPL internally. However, keep in mind that we do not know 1) if there a change in AAPL's strategy and 2) whether this will lead to a change in strategy for iPod."

While Mr. Neff noted that PowerBook orders comprise only 2% of Synaptics' notebook trackpad revenue, the firm lowered its current year price target from $53 to $49 to reflect the possible changes in Apple's sourcing strategy. In Apple's most recent quarter, the company shipped 152,000 PowerBooks, 271,000 iBooks, and 4,580,000 iPods. Should Apple move its iBook and iPod lines to its custom trackpads, the effect on Synaptics bottom line could be significant.

Neither Apple nor Synaptics commented to Bear Stearns. Shares of Synaptics are trading down about 12% today, to $34.70.

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