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Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis could further Apple's iPad 2 shortages

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The Apple iPad 2 has been selling out in stores across the U.S. since its launch Friday, and the scarcity of the device will probably continue as Japan continues to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the nation March 11 and as it tries to rein in an escalating nuclear crisis.

Apple pushed the delivery time for those ordering the iPad 2 online to 4 to 5 weeks Thursday, the same day that the research firm IHS iSuppli issued a report that said five key components of the tablet made in Japan will be in short supply because of factory shutdowns.

"The aftermath of the Japanese earthquake may cause logistical disruptions and supply shortages in Apple Inc.'s iPad 2, which employs several components manufactured in the disaster-stricken country -- including a hard-to-replace electronic compass, the battery and possibly the advanced technology glass in the display," IHS iSuppli said in a statement.

Apple officials were unavailable to comment on the report Thursday afternoon.

IHS iSuppli said it has identified five parts in the iPad 2 supplied by Japanese companies: NAND flash drives from Toshiba, memory manufactured by Elpida, electronic compasses from AKM Semiconductor, glass used in the tablet's touch screen likely from Asahi Glass Co. and batteries from Apple factories in Japan.

"While some of these suppliers reported that their facilities were undamaged, delivery of components from all of these companies is likely to be impacted at least to some degree by logistical issues now plaguing most Japanese industries in the quake zone," IHS iSuppli said.

"Suppliers are expected to encounter difficulties in getting raw materials supplied and distributed as well as in shipping out products. They also are facing difficulties with employee absences because of problems with the transportation system. The various challenges are being compounded by interruptions in the electricity supply, which can have a major impact on delicate processes, such as semiconductor lithography."

IPad2eBay0317 On top of all that, semiconductor factories in Japan have put off returning to full production until earthquake aftershocks subside, the research firm said.

"Earthquakes ranging from 4 to 7 on the Richter scale will make it impossible to really restart these fabs until the earthquakes stop happening with such frequency," said researcher Dale Ford of IHS iSuppli in the statement. "Every time a quake tops 5, the equipment automatically shuts down."

Apple, so far, has had a tough time keeping up with demand for the iPad 2, and that hasn't been lost on some owners of the coveted device.

On EBay, the 16-gigabyte iPad 2 models were selling for about $900 on Thursday afternoon, while 64-gigabyte models were listed for more than $1,300.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

 
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