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Report: Apple invests in Toshiba LCD plant

Japanese business journal report says Apple has invested in factory Toshiba is building in Japan. The plant is said to turn out displays for mobile phones, which many are surmising to be for Apple's iPhone.

Will Toshiba be supplying the display for future generations of the iPhone?
Will Toshiba be supplying the display for future generations of the iPhone? Josh Miller/CNET

Toshiba's building a $1.2 billion LCD plant, but it's reportedly not alone in footing the bill.

Nikkei, a Japanese business news outlet, today reported that Apple will be investing in the factory, which will be cranking out small mobile phone displays for future iPhones, according to Reuters.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The factory is set to be built starting early next year in Ishikawa Prefecture, an area on the west side of the country about 200 miles from Tokyo. The plant will be run by Toshiba Mobile Display, an arm of Toshiba that makes low-temperature polysilicon LCD panels at another factory in the same region. Once the new factory is up and running at capacity, it should double the current plant's production of 8.5 million panels per month.

Apple uses many different suppliers for the myriad parts that go into constructing its iPhone. In the past, Sharp and Sanyo Epson have been said to have supplied LCD panels for the smartphone. Apple isn't shy about switching suppliers to get the best deal--and is in fact known for the great component pricing it is able to wrangle from suppliers--but investing in the factory hasn't been standard practice for the Cupertino, Calif., company.

Still, it's not a surprising turn of events, if the report is indeed true. Apple is sitting on an enormous pile of cash (rather controversially too, if you ask some investors), and is moving toward a model where it has a lot of leverage over the production of its flagship products.

Just in the last few years, Apple has bought up chip design firms Intrinsity and PA Semi, has invested in Imagination Technologies, a mobile graphics chip designer, has laid out huge sums of cash to buy up LG Display's future production of displays presumably for iPads and Macs, has created its own battery technology for the iPad, and designed its own custom unibody construction process to create its MacBook line.