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Friday, March 26, 2010, 05:10 am PT (08:10 am ET)

Delays cause Apple to switch iPad touch-panel orders to Wintek

Due to delayed shipments for iPad touch-panels from Taiwan-based TPK Touch Solutions, Apple has reportedly shifted its orders to longtime partner Wintek. Also, some who preordered the iPad have begun seeing charges from Apple to their credit card, and Best Buy is prepping for the device's April 3 launch.

iPad touch-panel orders shift to Wintek

According to DigiTimes, TPK could not meet the level of supply expected by Apple, which led the iPad maker to shift orders to Wintek. Last week, the Taiwan industry publication claimed issues at Wintek caused the initial delay of the iPad.

Wintek previously focused on small- to medium-size LCD panels, but has shifted its business towards touch-panels. The company has plans to expand its capacity, though it is expected to be able to handle the iPad orders already placed by Apple.

When Apple first introduced the iPad, it said it would ship by late March. The product saw a slight delay, pushing its sale date back to April 3.

When the company began accepting preorders, it limited the number of purchases to two per person. Apple also turned down volume orders for businesses. These actions fueled speculation of a tight iPad supply for the product's launch.

Weeks ago, a handful of reports of manufacturing constraints suggested initial supply of the iPad could be limited. Analyst Peter misek with Canaccord Adams said checks with overseas suppliers suggested an "unspecified production problem" had led to a "manufacturing bottleneck," potentially limiting the number of devices available at launch to 300,000.



Another report, from analyst Vijay Rakesh of Think Equity, said that initial shipment could be even lower, around 200,000, due to "minor delays" in production. His checks with suppliers said any delays were only expected to be temporary, and were not related to the device's glass screen, or any issues in the manufacturing process.

A third report alleged that suppliers have had no issues in the manufacturing of the iPad, and expect Apple to ship between 600,000 and 700,000 devices at launch. That report claimed Apple would have the capacity to ship another 1 million iPads by the end of April.

Apple has also experienced short supply of some iPad accessories, with new preorders o the keyboard dock and power adapter being delayed until May. Those who prepurchased on the first available day will still see their ship in April.

A recent report alleged that the most expensive component in the iPad is its $80 display and touchscreen interface. The iPad has a 9.7-inch screen that is more than twice the size of the iPhone 3GS. Apple has reportedly signed a $240 million deal with Samsung to purchase 3 million additional iPad displays.

Apple begins iPad credit card preauthorization

A little over a week before the iPad is set to be released, Apple has begun placing temporary holds on the credit cards of users who preordered the device. The preauthorization is done to ensure that the customer has enough credit on their card to afford the purchase, and signals that the formal charge will arrive soon.

Users who purchased the 3G version of the iPad have also noted that their credit card has been accessed by Apple. Though the Wi-Fi-only model ships April 3, the 3G capable model is set to ship later in the month.

Best Buy preps for iPad launch

U.S. electronics retailer Best Buy is reportedly gearing up for the April 3 iPad launch. Initially the iPad will only be available at Best Buy locations that have dedicated Apple sections, also known as the "store within a store." It is expected the iPad will expand to all Best Buy locations eventually. The launch stores do not have plans to open early.

The report noted that Best Buy stores are set to receive four separate SKUs, even though the iPad launch will only see the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi-only models available. It was speculated that stores could receive a 3G-capable model for demo purposes only.

In February, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook revealed that Apple would sell the iPad at Best Buy and other assisted locations. The company plans to expand its retail availability over time.

Earlier this week, a personal e-mail from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to an inquiring customer revealed that the iPad will only be available at Apple retail and online stores and Best Buy initially. That means AT&T, the sole 3G provider for the iPad in the U.S., will not carry the product in its stores at launch, though it is likely the wireless provider will eventually sell after the 3G model ships.