By Kelvin Soh and Argin Chang
HONG KONG/TAIPEI (Reuters) - Component suppliers for Apple Inc's iPad are gearing up for a new round of production in the first quarter, sources said on Friday, with one saying the product will be a revamp of the popular tablet computer including front- and back-mounted cameras.
Apple's iPad has taken the world by storm since its introduction in January, winning over millions of fans and providing a much needed boost for a global technology sector still struggling with patchy demand.
Touchscreen chip designer Wintek Corp, battery maker Simplo Technology Co Ltd and AVY Precision, an unlisted maker of covers for electronic products, are among suppliers for the next batch of iPads, four people familiar with the situation said.
Two could only confirm they were ramping up for a new round of production in the first quarter for components previously supplied for the original iPad, while two said the ramp-up was for a new iPad.
One of those said the revamped model would feature cameras on the front and rear, while the other said the new model would be slimmer, lighter and have a better resolution display.
Camera module makers Genius Electronic Optical Co Ltd and Largan Precision Co Ltd were also starting new supply deals with Apple, two sources said, but neither could confirm for which product the modules were intended.
"Investing in Apple-related shares is going to be a major theme for most of next year," said Bevan Yeh, a fund manager at Prudential Securities investment Trust, who manages about T$7 billion ($230 million) and owns supplier shares.
"Apple is still the main driver on most technology products, and this will help push the earnings of its suppliers even more in 2011."
The iPad is expected to make up for about 70 percent of the 60 million tablet PCs that will be shipped in 2011, brokerage SinoPac Securities said in a note.
The introduction of a revamped iPad in the first half of 2011 would also be in line with the company's previous practice, with small changes made to its products about once every year. The original iPad was launched on January 27 this year.
All the people familiar with the supply chain situation declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the topic and because of Apple's obsession with secrecy.
Shares in Wintek rose 5.3 percent in Taipei, Genius was down 2.1 percent, while Largan and Simplo were little moved.
"It makes sense for these suppliers to begin delivering their goods in February," said Steven Tseng, an analyst at RBS in Taipei. "I think Steve Jobs will announce the new product in January, and we should see the new product hitting shops in about April."
Spokespeople at all five companies either declined to comment or were not immediately available. An Apple spokeswoman also declined to comment.
Component makers generally do not know what a finished product will look like or what software it will run on because they are only responsible for manufacturing one part before passing it on for assembly.
Apple is expected to ship 12.9 million iPads this year, with shipments rising to 36.5 million in 2011, research firm iSuppli said in July, reflecting an 84 percent share of the tablet PC market.
Other tech brands such as Dell, Acer and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion have all also jumped on the tablet PC bandwagon, having unveiled their own versions of the mobile device.
"I expect to see more tablet PCs being pushed out in the second half of next year," said Bamboo Lin, an analyst at SinoPac Securities in Taipei.
"Sales of the iPad will still be good next year, but I expect those running on Google's Android system to have the advantage in the long run, just like what's happening with smartphones now." (Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in SEOUL; Editing by Doug Young and Lincoln Feast)