Apple Locks Up 60% of Touch Panels, Locking Out Competitors

Apple has locked up some 60% of the global supply of glass capacitive touch panels, according to a report from Taiwan newspaper DigiTimes. By doing so, Apple has been able to ensure its own ability to ship however many iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches it can sell, and it’s having the ancillary effect of making it very difficult for the competition to make their own devices.

According to DigiTimes (thanks to LoopInsight for the heads up) Research In Motion, Motorola, HP, and other large corporations are busily scrapping amongst themselves over the remaining 40% of supply, leaving smaller, second tier companies (like many of the companies we saw showing Android tablets at CES), out of the running for this high end component completely.

There are other options, including thin-film capacitive touch panels, but thin-film solutions offer a different tactile feel to users and have less durability than the glass-capacitive displays that Apple has been using for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Apple has long worked hard to secure supply of linchpin components needed for its product lines, from RAM to LCD displays in the later part of the last decade to the touch panels that are so important to its iOS empire today. With the company’s enormous warchest and hot selling devices that have been limited only by how many can get made, Apple can offer the kind of security for suppliers that no other company can.

As part of its story, DigiTimes said that Apple has an internal goal of shipping 40 million iPads in 2011. Though that number was not directly sourced, it was implied that it came from forecasts given to component makers based in Taiwan.