There's been a lot of debate over the past couple of months as to whether or not Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be able to launch a Retina iPad Mini this year. Upgrading the display is an inevitable progression for the iPad maker, but Apple remains at the mercy of its component suppliers and their ability to manufacture the high-resolution panels with adequate yields.
Last month, there were reports that these yields were too low, which threatened the device's schedule and that the Retina iPad Mini could be delayed until early 2014 as a result. That could hurt iPad sales in the important holiday quarter, as rivals have been aggressively improving their own display specs. Google has officially kicked off tablet upgrade season with its second-generation Nexus 7 that features a sharp 1,920 x 1,200 display. Amazon is likely preparing to follow suit in September.
Well, The Wall Street Journal has potentially good news for Apple investors. Apple is "likely" to launch a Retina iPad Mini in the fourth quarter, but in order to do so it will have to turn to Samsung. Apple has tried its darnedest to wean its business from its biggest rival, but that's much easier said than done considering Samsung's massive presence in the component market.
Samsung would just be one of three suppliers, with the other two being Sharp and LG Display. Apple had wanted to just use the latter two vendors, but decided to tap Samsung for more supply.
AU Optronics is one of two suppliers for the current iPad Mini display, but a manager at the Taiwanese company said that AUO isn't profiting from the current iPad Mini business.
Apple faces a tough dilemma. On one hand, the company could choose not to buy displays from Samsung and risk giving rivals like Google a leg-up over the iPad Mini this holiday shopping season if a Retina model is delayed. On the other hand, Apple could tap Samsung and support its component business while Samsung's smartphone business remains the biggest threat to the iPhone.
New iPads are expected in October, which is now just two months away. It won't be long until investors find out for sure.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.