Shipments of 9.7-inch tablet panels used in tablets like Apple's iPad nosedived 81 percent in January, coinciding with other market developments that showed an overall drop for large-sized liquid crystal display (LCD) panels used in TVs, monitors, notebooks and tablets as the year started, according to an IHS iSuppli LCD Shipment Database report from information and analytics provider IHS.
The decline in 9.7-inch panels came after Apple adjusted purchases in January this year, following what indicators suggest had been a large number of panel orders in December 2012. Apple has an agreement with its panel suppliers to buy a certain quantity of panels every year, and the big December movement suggests that Apple had fallen short of ordering during the January to November time frame.
The 9.7-inch size was not unique among tablet panels experiencing a downturn during the period, as other sizes also saw a contraction in monthly shipments. The 8.9-inch, used in the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, retreated by an even larger 92 percent. Overall, tablet shipments in January fell 26 percent to 15.23 million units, down from 20.50 million a month earlier.
The sole exception to the general slump in tablet panels was in the 7.9-inch category, used in the increasingly popular iPad mini. Apple's demand for the 7.9-inch panel rose to 5.42 million pieces, up 14 percent from 4.75 million units, in light of worldwide promotions and phenomenal sales for the smaller, more compact iPad-which very likely ate into the share of its bigger cousin, the regularly sized iPad.
Two other tablet panel sizes also enjoyed increased monthly shipments-the 10.6 inch, used in Microsoft Surface tablets, up 16 percent; and the 11.6-inch, which some PC makers are planning to use as their Windows 8 tablet-size offering to compete with the Surface, up 14 percent.
To be sure, a more sluggish market could be discerned in January, which marks the start of the slow season for large-sized LCD panels, defined as those larger than 7.9 inches. And like the tablet panel area, display shipments for TVs, monitors and notebooks fell uniformly across the board.
TV panel shipments, for instance, amounted to 18.68 million units, down 8 percent from 20.30 million. The declines were worse in monitors and notebooks, with both segments suffering double-digit decreases. In monitors, a 15 percent slide meant that panel shipments here fell to 12.62 million from 14.80 million. For notebooks, the large 31 percent slide resulted in panel shipments of 13.10 million, down from 19.10 million.
Notebook panels, in particular, have suffered grievously as panel demand shifts to tablets, which have proved a hit among consumers. Among afflicted panel makers, LG Display had the largest decline in notebook panel shipments during the month, down 38 percent. Other notebook display suppliers that experienced big decreases were Innolux of Taiwan, down 36 percent; AU Optronics, also of Taiwan, down 27 percent; and Samsung Display Corp. of South Korea, down 16 percent.
All told, global shipments of large-sized LCD panels in January 2013 reached 60.48 million units, down 20 percent from 75.60 million from December 2012. Still, January's numbers were up 14 percent from levels during the same time last year, when large-sized LCD panel shipments amounted to 53.1 million units in January 2012.