updated 11:00 pm EST, Fri November 23, 2012
Two other Chinese firms step up to fill in on iPad, MacBook batteries
A report in China Business News claims that Samsung SDI, the company's battery-producing subsidiary, has decided to withdraw from selling batteries to Apple, possibly in retaliation for various moves the iPad maker has made to reduce its dependence on Samsung as a supplier. Two other Chinese firms, Tianjin Lishen Battery and Amperex Technology, are said to be filling in for Samsung's absence in the iPad and MacBook lines of batteries, which Samsung SDI formerly supplied.
Stories of various retaliatory measures between Samsung and Apple have appeared, most often in Chinese business publications, but at present there is little evidence that any of the stories are true thus far, even in the most recent Apple products. It would certainly make sense for Apple to withdraw as much business as possible from Samsung, but there are few others that can manufacture parts of the quality and quantity Apple requires for its enormously popular iOS and Mac products.
This latest leak has not yet been denied by Samsung, though it did deny that it was raising prices on Apple for processors by 20 percent, and that it had terminated the contract with Apple for displays in the iPad and other products. Given the source, it is also possible that Apple was the instigator of the change in battery suppliers, with Samsung trying to get ahead of the story by claiming it "wasn't fired, but quit" even though the idea of Samsung being willing giving up a lucrative component contract -- even to a rival like Apple -- lacks credibility.
Time will tell if Apple has or will actually change suppliers -- though Apple has a history of keeping more than one supplier available as needed for as many parts as possible. The company has been seen to be grooming Taiwan Seminconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to supply Apple with various types of chips from power regulators to full-blown processors.
One of the clearest moves away from Samsung, which Apple has repeatedly accused (and prevailed repeatedly in court) of "slavish" copying and patent infringement was to remove Samsung from all aspects of chip designing and design components on its A-series chips, though it still uses Samsung to manufacture the processors. Apple has also been known to be diversifying its display suppliers and other part vendors, though this could simply be a good business practice rather than any sort of retaliatory measure.
Pundits have portrayed Apple as slowly disentangling itself from its relationship with Samsung, but for its part Apple has always called the South Korean company an "important supplier" and, at least for now, it continues to be one of Apple's main partners on the component level, even as the two companies' relationship has grown more strained and litigious.