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Tuesday, December 28, 2010, 10:00 pm PT (01:00 am ET)

Report: Apple ordering 65 million iPad screens for 2011

While most market estimates figure Apple will sell 45-48 million iPads next year, the company has reportedly placed orders with suppliers for 65 million 9.7 inch iPad displays.

According to a report by DigiTimes, Apple is believed to have placed orders for an estimated 35 million iPad displays from LG and another 30 million split between Samsung and Chimei Innolux.

The report notes that the volume of orders Apple is said to have placed with its suppliers indicates that the company "is very optimistic about the tablet PC market in 2011, and it may also mean that Apple is overbooking panel capacity." DigiTimes research has delivered a spotty record.

Apple eats up tablet screen supply

By the end of 2010, Apple is expected to have purchased 16.75 million screens for iPads, the report stated, all of which come from Taiwan's component manufacturers. In November alone, LG produced 1.5 million screens for Apple, while Samsung delivered another 1.2 million.

Through the end of the September quarter, Apple has reported selling 7.46 million iPads. That indicates a balance of nearly 9.2 million screens, minus the number Apple has actually sold in the winter quarter of 2010. If the company were actually running into overbooked panel capacity, the problem should already be evident.

Instead, Apple is now said to be bringing on Chimei Innolux as a new supplier of iPad displays in addition to LG and Samsung. Analysts' expectations for iPad sales in 2011 may not take into consideration everything the company is doing to sell its new tablet, including efforts to push iPad into the enterprise.

iPad screen size difficult for competitors to match

Apple's decision to offer iPad exclusively in the 9.7 inch screen size will likely lower component pricing in a way that only benefits Apple, while competitors continue to design and build 5 and 7 inch screens that don't benefit from the massive economy of scale Apple's iPad high volume sales are creating.

In October, Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs said "our potential competitors [in tablets] are having a tough time coming close to iPad's pricing. iPad incorporates everything we've learned about building high value products. We create our own A4 chip, software, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. This results in an incredible product at a great price. The proof will be in the pricing of our competitors' products, which will offer less for more."

Jobs suggested that iPad competitors were using smaller screens because they couldn't afford to use larger screens, and were therefore ignoring the drawbacks related with trying to shoehorn a tablet interface into a 7 inch screen less than half the size of the iPad's.

"We think the 7 inch tablets will be dead on arrival, and manufacturers will realize they're too small and abandon them next year. They'll then increase the size, abandoning the customers and developers who bought into the smaller format," Jobs predicted.

iPad eats up tablet market, netbooks, PCs

Apple currently faces no credible competitors in the tablet market, particularly in corporate circles. Next year however, Apple is expected to face emerging competition from a new group of tablets running Android 3.0; HP's new PalmPad; RIM's PlayBook and a second run of Microsoft's Windows 7 tablets.

The iPad hasn't just taken over the tablet market; it has also killed growth among netbooks and, according to Morgen Stanley, has already eaten up 25 percent of PC notebook sales this year since it went on sale in April. In September, the firm revised its projected sales from 37 to 60 million tablets next year, saying the Dell Streak and Samsung Tab would also contribute to the trend toward tablets and away from conventional PCs.