Apple doesn't need Samsung any more

Apple's aggressive move against Samsung tablets signals a willingness to cut off the supplier and bodes well for an early release of the iPhone 5, iPad 3

This week Apple won a temporary injunction in Germany, barring Samsung from selling Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets in every EU nation except the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the fight's expected to extend to Galaxy phones as well. Apparently the injunction was imposed using an emergency procedure that didn't require a hearing. Samsung claims it wasn't even notified that a block was in the works and has vowed to fight in court today.

For those of us anxiously anticipating the deployment of Android tablets and Galaxy S IIs in our companies, that's a body blow.

As I explained back in April, Samsung's one of Apple's largest suppliers, with $5.6 billion of Samsung's 2010 revenues coming from Apple. The Economist published a breakdown of the components of an iPhone 4, showing that Samsung provides flash memory, DRAM, and the processor for the phone. Altogether, Samsung supplies an estimated 26 percent of the pieces in an iPhone 4. Gizmodo goes on to ask a tantalizing question: What if Samsung stopped supplying parts for the iPhone 4?

My take: I bet it already has, or it will in very short order, and Apple couldn't care less.

Apple has a long history of skillfully working its suppliers. Although nobody knows anything for sure about the iPhone 5, as Galen Gruman noted last week, there are persistent rumors about a new processor (or processors), screens -- just about every single component of the new phone -- and plenty of rumors about the iPad 3. The one common thread that I've seen in all of the rumors recently: Samsung isn't even mentioned.

You may take Apple's new aggression in the Samsung battles as an indication that Apple is finally fed up with Samsung's wayward ways and wants to assert its patent rights. If that's the case, Apple's willing to take the risk that Samsung will cut Apple off because there are larger principles (and dollars) at stake.

I look at it differently. I think Apple doesn't need Samsung any more -- as of a week or two ago -- and it's striking while the litigious iron is hot.

If I'm right, that bodes well for an early release of the iPhone 5 and maybe even the iPad 3. It also speaks volumes about the key suppliers for the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 -- good news for Intel, TSMC, maybe LG. Let's see what happens.

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