updated 05:55 pm EST, Tue January 18, 2011
Cites 2005 flash deal as past example
[Updated with details] Apple has identified a new area in which it is making a long-term investment for components, the company let slip during its Q1 results call. Although executives are refusing to name the technology specifically, the deal is said to be strategic and involve pre-payments. The arrangement is similar to a late 2005 flash memory agreement, according to the company.
In that case Apple signed a deal with several suppliers, seeing flash as an integral part of the future. Flash memory first found major use at Apple in iPods, but is now the backbone of iOS devices like the iPhone 4 and the iPad. What Apple might be investing in next is mostly a matter of speculation; the company is, however, highly dependent on mobile displays, and so might be interested in securing a flow of multi-touch and/or extremely high-resolution panels. Apple does have an agreement with LG Display, but the pact is already public knowledge.
Update: The unnamed deal is worth $3.9 billion over two years.