DisplaySearch: Quake hasn't affected some LCD supplies

Research firm finds that supply chain of thin-film transistor LCDs made in Japan hasn't been majorly affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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The supply chain for thin-film transistor LCDs made in Japan hasn't been majorly affected by last week's earthquake and tsunami, according to recent inventory checks by the research firm DisplaySearch.

DisplaySearch said today that the biggest impact it sees from the earthquake on TFT liquid crystal displays--which are used in a wide range of devices, including televisions, monitors, and smartphones--is the possibility of the disaster to "undermine consumer and business confidence."

That psychological impact is already being witnessed in other markets. According to IHS iSuppli, fear of undersupply in the industry following the earthquake has pushed costs of NAND flash memory up 10 percent. DRAM pricing is up 7 percent since the disaster. In that same report, IHS said companies that make LCD components are also eyeing potential slowdowns.

Although DisplaySearch acknowledged that "information is limited" at this point, it said that few TFT LCD manufacturing plants were affected in the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left thousands dead and caused billions of dollars in damage. The research firm said that Hitachi Display and NEC's Gen 2 plants, as well as Toshiba and Epson's factories, were not damaged by the earthquake. Those plants have, however, stopped production for the time being.

Even so, that pause in production shouldn't affect TFT LCD supply, DisplaySearch said. The company pointed out that Hitachi, NEC, Toshiba, and the others have a "very minor" share in the TFT LCD market.

More sizable competitors in the production of TFT LCD displays were largely unaffected by the Japan earthquake, DisplaySearch found. The company said Sharp's two facilities, Panasonic's factory, and other Japanese producers operate plants outside the affected areas.

That said, DisplaySearch had already been seeing softness in the demand for LCDs prior to the earthquake, and its inventory checks prior to the event indicated that "some slack [in supply] already existed in the system." That extra supply, in addition to the general lack of real damage to the TFT LCD supply chain, makes DisplaySearch rather positive about that market going forward.

IHS iSuppli doesn't see such a rosy picture of the market. Though it agreed with DisplaySearch that LCD production was "not impacted," the research firm said in its own report yesterday that "power supply issues may impact future production and supply of these LCD components."