Apple is looking to acquire a 55 percent stake in a joint venture between Sharp and Taiwanese company Powerchip formed to develop chips for use in smartphone displays, according to a new report by Japan’s Nikkei business newspaper. The stake Apple is after is currently owned by Renesas Electronics, and the division is called Renesas SP Drivers. It consists of around 240 Japan-based employees, and is the world’s number one producer of “drivers and controllers for small and midsize LCDs” according to Nikkei.
Apple would be looking to close its purchase of Renesas’ share by the end of summer, and in so doing it would take over a unit that’s responsible for around one-third of the worldwide supply of display chip components. The processors specifically help determine how good a display is in terms of resolution and color performance, and also go a long way to dictate the overall power efficiency of the phone or tablet using the display, since screens make up a huge hunk of battery usage overall.
The other partners in the unit include Sharp, which has 25 percent and is expected to also sell its stake to Apple if the deal goes through and Apple requests it do so as part of the bargain. Powerchip, on the other hand, owns 20 percent and handles manufacturing, and probably will maintain its stake. The final arrangement could look something like the deal Apple has with GT Advanced to produce its sapphire tech, albeit with a more sizeable ownership stake for Cupertino.
Apple is said to be looking to make this investment in order to protect and own its smartphone display component design tech. We’ve seen the company bring component design more in-house in the past, including the latest in the A-series of mobile processors, after previously depending primarily on third-party sources to provide the designs and the manufacturing. If this report is correct, display chips might be the next thing it brings in-house.