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displays Is NextInput next winner in Apple products? By Peter Clarke NextInput Inc., a startup founded in 2012, could be the latest MEMS sensor company to be catapulted to fame and fortune by design wins with that doyen of consumer electronics, Apple. NextInput has started shipping its “Force- Touch” sensor and Apple’s iPhone 6s or will it be iPhone 7 is expected to debut in September with a feature called Force Touch. Add to that the fact that the company has just imported a CEO from Apple supplier InvenSense and circumstantial evidence starts to favor NextInput. InvenSense was one of the design slot winners in the Apple iPhone 6 last September. Could this be a case of Apple asking the startup to install an experienced executive as CEO to make sure they can handle a sudden ramp to 10s of millions of units? According to the Wall Street Journal Apple is asking for its contract manufacturers and suppliers to make 85 million and 90 million units of two new iPhone models with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays by Dec. 31, 2015. NextInput was founded as a spin-off from Georgia Institute of Technology to commercialize a pressure-sensitive sensor technology. The company says that multiple sensors can be placed under a display surface or track pad and offer a lower-cost solution that also consumes less power when compared with capacitive touch. Mobile equipment makers always welcome lower power. Next Input’s ForceTouch can also sense multipoint touch, the location and amount of force from each touch point down to submillimeter spatial resolution, and sub-millinewton force resolution. NextInput said it has just begun sampling its FT4010F ForceTouch sensor with software and algorithms to enable 1D, 2D and 3D touch control. The good news is that NextInput can be looking at selling between four and six sensor per piece of equipment. However, it may not be such a rapid ramp for NextInput as the company could already be shipping into the Apple Watch and certain versions of the MacBook, where the pressure sensitive technology allows software to differentiate between a light tap and a deep press and respond accordingly. Interestingly InvenSense has exemplar art work for all three use cases: the laptop computer, the smartphone and the smartwatch. Cambridge Touch Technologies Ltd. is a startup aiming at the same design slots but as that company was founded in 2014 it feels like it would be a little too young to have proven its technology to the satisfaction of a consumer giant such as Apple. Notebook displays shrink, Chromebook’s 11-inch a winner, says IHS GBy Julien Happich lobal consumers have lately become less interested in acquiring conventional notebooks with 15-inch displays, and they are instead shifting their spending to smaller product segments according to market research firm IHS. In its Notebook and Tablet Display Supply Chain Tracker, the company reveals that in the first half of 2015, panel shipments in the 15-inch range (i.e., 15.0 inches to 15.9 inches) dropped 14 percent year over year, from 44.5 million to 38.4 million units. At the same time, driven by the popularity of Chromebook, notebook display shipments in the 11-inch range enjoyed over 35% growth from 8 million units to 11 million units. “Thanks to affordable prices, and a completed ecosystem with a host of hardware and app choices and a user-friendly cloud environment, Chromebook has expanded its customer base from small and medium-sized businesses and the education market to general users,” comments Jason Hsu, supply chain senior analyst for IHS Technology. “The Chromebook sales region has also expanded from the United States to emerging countries, where more local brands are launching Chromebook product offerings. There are also more products set to debut in the 12-inch range, thanks to the success of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and rumours of Apple’s upcoming 12.9-inch tablets.” While total notebook panel shipments to Lenovo and Hewlett- Packard fell 27 percent month over month from 6.4 million units in May to 4.7 million units in June, overall set production increased by 13 percent from 5.4 million units to 6.1 million units. These two leading notebook PC brands have recently taken steps to regulate panel inventory, in order to guard against excess product prestocking. “The currency depreciation in Euro zone and emerging counties earlier this year jeopardized consumer confidence and slowed the purchase of consumer electronics, including notebooks,” Hsu said. “Moreover, in April, Microsoft leaked the announcement of its new Windows 10 operating system. Despite Microsoft’s claims that a free upgrade to the new operating system would be available to Windows 8 users, many consumers still deferred purchases, which increased the brands’ set inventory. Notebook manufacturers could decide to lower set production in the third quarter, after the end market becomes sluggish in May and June.” With notebook panel prices remaining very low, profitability has become an issue, and many panel makers are facing pressure to maintain fab loading and gain market share. “Panel cost structure has become crucial in the struggle to stay competitive,” Hsu said. “Continuous panel over-supply not only hurts profitability, but could also confuse the real panel market demand in the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. It’s time for panel makers to revise their production numbers, and curb capacity utilization, to keep pace with actual market demand.” 18 Electronic Engineering Times Europe September 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE SEP 2015
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