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Thursday, May 19, 2011, 06:55 am PT (09:55 am ET)

Continuing supply struggles from Japan force Apple to diversify

Apple has been forced to turn to alternative suppliers after at least one component maker in Japan has been unable to meet demand following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

To obtain "protective components" for power supplies in its devices, Apple has turned to Taiwan's Thinking Electronic, according to DigiTimes. Previously, Apple purchased most of its protective components from Japan's Murata.

But Murata has reportedly not been able to recoup after the massive earthquake that struck Japan in March. That left Apple with no choice but to seek out other partners.

Thinking is said to be the second largest supplier of protective components for Apple, representing a total of 35 percent. Previously, Japan's Murata was the largest supplier.

Thinking addressed the Japan earthquake on its own site soon after the disaster occurred in March. It noted that the company was in "constant contact" with suppliers regarding the availability of raw material for its own products.

"(Thinking) indicates that its raw material supply chain is not affected by the incident and its product lines operate as usual," the company said. "Thinking will keep monitoring its raw material supply and market demand to ensure its best production."

Thinking


Last month during his company's quarterly earnings conference call, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said the disaster in Japan did not greatly affect his company's supply of components. He also said he did not expect the situation to have a negative impact on the company in the near future.

However, Cook also cautioned that the situation in Japan remained volatile, with aftershocks and potential power outages. He said that Apple employees were working "around the clock on contingency plans" to ensure they would be able to secure components if deals were to fall through in Japan.

Cook also said that Apple would prefer to stick with its long-term partners in Japan, if possible. He expected that to take place in most instances.

Despite Cook's comments, rumors of component issues stemming from Japan have persisted. A week ago, DigiTimes reported that Apple's overseas manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is experiencing a shortage of labor and materials at its plants in Chengdu, China.

It was said that Foxconn has experienced a shortage of power amplifiers and memory for the iPad 2. Those component issues apparently stem at least in part from the devastating earthquake that struck Japan.