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The well-regarded Taiwanese tech rag Digitimes quotes "sources from component makers" saying that Steve Jobs and his merry band have been ordering up a storm lately. The orders supposedly include OLED panels of tablet-like 5.6-inch and 7-inch sizes, getting Apple ready for a couple of new product releases late this year or early 2011. If you recall, the original iPad was introduced in January 2010, though product didn't appear on store shelves until months later. The timing seems about right.
The timing for a refreshed iPad line, that is. The OLED rumor is very likely nothing but a mirage. Leading OLED panel manufacturer Samsung can hardly crank out enough screens to satisfy the internal needs of its own handset division, much less ship millions of larger screens to an outsider such as Apple. LG Display (NYSE: LPL ) is playing catch-up, Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK ) recently sold its remaining OLED patents, and I don't see much news about OLED displays out of General Electric (NYSE: GE ) these days.
In short, the supply-and-demand equation here does not work out in Apple's favor. Smaller iPads may indeed be in the works, and that kind of gadget would likely be less about carving out a new market niche, and more about competing head-to-head with e-book readers from Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) . But OLED screens remain a pipe dream for the iPad, or for any other mass-market device of the iPad's scale.
OLED's time will come, even in heavy-volume sectors like megahit phones and tablets. But could we let Samsung finish building its factories before we expect OLEDs in the Apple store? Thanks.