Apple cuts back on Samsung-sourced iPad displays as patent trial heats up

iPad Q3 Shipments

Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (005930) are tech’s greatest frenemies. On one hand, the consumer electronics giants are bitter rivals fighting for smartphone industry dominance and suing each other every chance they get. On the other hand, Apple is Samsung’s No.1 customer, buying billions worth of components for its popular iPhone, iPad and Mac product lines from Samsung. According to a new report, the companies’ patent war may now be spilling over into its business relationship as Apple cuts display panel orders from Samsung in favor of screens from rivals Sharp (6753) and LG Display (LPL).

According to unnamed sources speaking with industry watcher Digitimes, Apple’s component suppliers will ship a total of 19.5 million iPad display panels in the third quarter this year. The figure includes both iPad 2 and third-generation iPad displays, and is up 2.6% from 19 million in the second-quarter.

But even more noteworthy than the continued hot demand for Apple’s tablet is Digitimes’s note regarding supplier spread. According to the site’s sources, Apple is “decreasing the proportion of total shipments of iPad panels from Samsung Electronics and increasing those from Sharp and LG Display.” The news comes just three days after the San Jose, California patent trial between Apple and Samsung commenced.

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