Quake unlikely to raise PC prices

Taiwanese makers of laptops and tablets say material shortages in Japan will have little impact on product prices

Taiwanese PC makers said on Thursday that product prices would hold steady this year despite disruptions to raw material supplies after the massive Japan earthquake last month.

Firms in Taiwan, home to a huge tech industry and some of the world's biggest PC contractors, said they had found raw materials outside Japan, dug into existing inventories, or decided against passing on any higher costs to consumers.

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"It's not a big deal for us because we've found a Taiwan vendor who can supply us USB controller chips, and their price is lower," said Tim Handley, deputy director of motherboard marketing with Gigabyte Technology in Taiwan. "We were told supplies [from Japan] would dry up in June, so we found the other one."

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake in northeast Japan damaged factories and disrupted power to raw-material suppliers, prompting speculation of a six-month disruption to the tech supply chain.

Raw material for devices like semiconductors and touchscreen panels were especially hard to get after the March 11 quake. Last month electronics manufacturers in Taiwan had nervously contacted their suppliers in Japan while tapping sources elsewhere.

Smartphone and tablet PC maker HTC managed to find some materials in China. It wouldn't have raised prices anyway, because price is important in its battle against more-expensive Apple products, a company sales specialist said.

Taiwan-based Asustek Computer has not discussed any changes to PC prices since the quake, and Micro-Star International, which makes notebooks and tablets, had diversified its component sources before the quake, the companies said.

"We have not been affected," marketing manager Luc Liao said. "Most of our stuff does not come from Japan, and after the quake we checked around to make sure we could get what we needed."

Notebook makers generally report little impact as few of their parts come from the quake zone, said Eddy Tseng, tech analyst with SinoPac Securities in Taipei. But makers of tablets and smartphones may see shortages, he said.

The Taiwan operations president of Acer, one of the world's biggest PC makers, said this week the company was likely to raise laptop prices in late 2011 if the component crisis continued in Japan, local media reported on Thursday. An Acer spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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