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Japanese disaster may disrupt iPad 2 manufacturing

Supply of system battery, flash memory, electronic compass and more could be at risk

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami could have a disruptive effect on the manufacture of the iPad 2, as several key components originate in areas affected by the disaster.

According to analysis of the iPad 2 hardware by research firm iSuppi, five key components are manufactured in Japan: NAND flash memory from Toshiba, DRAM from Elpida Memory, an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor, the touchscreen overlay glass from Asahi Glass and the system battery from Apple Japan.

Other components could potentially be sourced from Japan, but according to iSuppli their country of origin cannot be confirmed.

Structural damage of facilities in Japan is less of a problem than transportation, of both raw materials and finished products - as well as employees unable to reliably get to work. Electricity supply is also a concern given the country's rolling blackouts.

Semiconductor manufacture is particularly susceptible to power supply interruption and cannot recommence until aftershocks have completely stopped.

Although characterised in the press as only a minor upgrade from the original version demand for the iPad 2 has been greater than expected, leading Apple to ramp up production, but also delay shipments from the Apple Store by a week.

Although some components can be sourced from other companies, iSuppli suggests that the compass and glass could be particularly difficult to replace at short notice.

The iPad 2 officially launched in the US on March 11 and is due to launch in other major markets, including Europe on March 25 - the same day as the Nintendo 3DS.

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