Active-matrix OLED

Can Apple corner the display market?

February 1, 2011: 10:31 AM ET

According to iSuppli, that's the purpose of a $3.9 billion investment revealed last month

The iPhone 4's "retina" display. Photo: Apple Inc.

When COO Tim Cook mentioned during Apple's (AAPL) Q1 2011 earning call that the company was going to spend $3.9 billion over the next two years for unspecified component pre-payments, most analysts assumed he was talking about touch screen displays for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

On Tuesday iSuppli -- now part of IHS -- issued a report that makes it explicit: Apple, according to IHS's Vinita Jakhanwal, is trying to corner the market for two key technologies used in its so-called "retina" displays: advanced in-plane switching (IPS) and low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS).

Based on what companies own or have licensed the key intellectual property behind these technologies, Jakhanwal believes he has identified the three suppliers with which Apple has signed agreements: LG Display (LGL), Sharp Corp. and Toshiba Mobile Display.

This is a big deal because Apple hasn't just made pre-payments for displays, it's actually helping build the factories that will manufacture them, ensuring first crack at everything they produce.

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