Apple starts a display R&D center in Taiwan

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Apple starts a display R&D center in Taiwan

Apple opened a production laboratory in northern Taiwan where engineers are developing new display technologies, according to people with knowledge of the facility.

The Apple building in Longtan has at least 50 engineers and other workers creating new screens for devices including iPhones and iPads, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t public. Apple has recruited from local display maker AU Optronics and Qualcomm, which used to own the building, the people said.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple in Cupertino, California, declined to comment.

Apple began operating the lab this year as it aims to make products thinner, lighter, brighter and more energy-efficient. Engineers are developing more-advanced versions of the liquid- crystal displays currently used in iPhones, iPads and Mac personal computers, the people said. Apple also is keen to move to organic light-emitting diodes, which are even thinner and don’t require a backlight, they said.

Making its iPhones and iPads slimmer and longer-lasting with each generation has been a hallmark of Apple, helping drive $178 billion in annual sales from the two product categories.

By working directly on the development of display technologies, Apple can reduce reliance on the technology developed by suppliers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Display, Sharp and Japan Display.

Instead, the company can develop the production processes in-house and outsource to smaller manufacturers such as Taiwan’s AU Optronics or Innolux Corporation.

Shares of AU Optronics surged as much as 8.1 percent in Taipei and Innolux jumped as much as 4.6 percent. Japan Display dropped 3 percent in Tokyo, heading for the lowest close since October, and Sharp fell 1.6 percent.

Apple does the bulk of its research at its headquarters in Cupertino and outsources the manufacturing of almost all devices and components to suppliers such as Foxconn Technology Group and Japan Display.

The iPhone maker also employs scientists and engineers globally to develop materials and manufacturing technologies.

Apple continues looking for engineers to work at its display panel facilities, according to job postings on LinkedIn’s website.

Tucked in a corner of Longtan Science Park, between a forest and the building site for a new biotechnology factory, the structure shows no outward indications of belonging to the world’s most valuable company.

Fifty kilometers (31 miles) from downtown Taipei and within an hour’s drive of the Foxconn headquarters, the white-tiled factory displays no corporate signage, a stark contrast to neighboring plants emblazoned with 3-foot-tall logos for Leotek Electronics, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and AU Optronics.

A short driveway, a half-dozen steps and sliding glass doors lead to a counter and a receptionist in front of an Apple logo on the wall.

That sign, and an iMac displaying Apple’s standard visitor registration screen, are the only visible indicators Apple resides here. BLOOMBERG

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