Chimei Innolux (CMI), Hitachi Displays Form Strategic Alliance To Manufacture 9.7-inch IPS LCD Panels For iPad Program

Chimei Innolux (CMI) and Hitachi Displays have signed an agreement to form a strategic alliance to supply 9.7-inch IPS LCD panels to Apple’s iPad program according to DIGITIMES. Expected shipment date is in Q4’10 or Q1’11. Hitachi Displays plans to increase its capacity to manufacture 9.7-inch IPS LCD panels with some of that capacity supported by CMI. The 9.7-inch IPS LCD panel will also be part of CMI’s product offering. Most likely CMI will make use of its Gen 5 TFT LCD fab to manufacture the iPad LCD panels. In related news CMI is also in discussions with E Ink Holdings, previously Prime View International (PVI), to gain access to its fringe field switching (FFS) display technology (read Chimei Innolux To License FFS From E Ink Holdings To Build iPad Panels).

Currently LG Display (LGD) and Samsung are the only two LCD manufacturers that are supplying 9.7-inch IPS LCD panels to Apple’s iPad program.

Just because a company is able to manufacture an IPS panel doesn’t mean it will pass the scrutiny of Apple’s display engineers. LGD is a long time supplier to Apple and even then the two companies must work together intensely and for significant amounts of time to get the LCD panel just right. Will Hitachi Displays’ 9.7-inch IPS LCD panel be qualified? That’s anyone’s guess, but I’m doubtful that CMI-made Hitachi IPS displays will make it through the very first round.

I’m also quite surprised to see Samsung manufacturing IPS LCD panels. For quite some time, at least a decade, Samsung has put all of its marketing dollars to push patterned vertical alignment (PVA) display technology. At every conference that I have attended Samsung has always touted PVA as better than IPS. This 180-degree turnaround is quite interesting to say the least.

Why is everyone rushing to build IPS LCD panels thinking that Apple will use them as a panel provider for its iPad program? Maybe Apple is experiencing such intense IPS panel shortages that it is scrambling to build more IPS LCD panel supply. One definite result would be an overall downward pressure on the 9.7-inch IPS panels as more companies compete. That’s a positive for Apple, but I’m a bit worried that overall display quality will suffer as a result. Samsung is not known as a premiere IPS supplier. Hitachi is and has a long history of manufacturing IPS LCD panels but not at such volumes the iPad program will require. CMI is similar to Samsung in that it has never had the experience of volume manufacturing IPS panels. The iPad experience is centered around the multitouch 9.7-inch IPS LCD, so it is imperative that quality continues to go up, not down. If I were in the market for an iPad I would want to know how to figure out if it was made by LGD or not since I personally only trust LGD at this point.