I have penned previous postings as far back as the summer of 2008, that comment on the remarkable attributes of Apple’s physical supply chain, as well as its ability to support major product launches, such as the iPhone launch in July of 2008. Readers may recall that Apple demonstrated the ability to sell and deliver over one million units in the first weekend of the iPhone product launch. In fact, it was a breakdown in the digital supply chain that proved to be the biggest problem during this previous product launch.

Apple has long operated in a veil of secrecy, seldom sharing information regarding its supply chain capabilities or pending product launches.  But in the specific case of Apple, this cloak of secrecy can be easily compromised by information leaks across the various tiers in its value-chain.

That evidence was clearly evident last week in a series of articles appearing both in Silicon Valley and other  blogs.  A blog posting in SiliconValley.com indicated that Apple had ordered 100 million 8GB NAND flash chips, mostly with Samsung Electronics, to support upcoming product build needs. Their source was the Taiwan based media site, DigiTimes, which also predicted an industry supply shortage of these memory devices, because of Apple’s supply requirements.  The order is double the reported size of last year’s supply to support the launch of the iPhone.  This blog post also cites other “supply chain scuttlebutt” indicating that component suppliers have started shipping iPhone parts to assembly plants on a schedule pegged to a “June launch”, to support a build plan of five to six million units, considerably higher than previous estimates. Similar information appeared on the Apple 2.0 blog, also appearing in Fortune, which cites Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu as assimilating the same information from various supply chain and industry sources.  Wu’s findings even speculate on the potential variety of models, and timing of the product launch.

Apple’s previous product successes have made the company the envy of consumer electronics.  Success often brings a thirst of inside information, in hopes of figuring out Apple’s next market move.  Those that understand the product’s value-chain can sometimes find key information leaking from this supply and contract manufacturing base.  Chock this up to another potential risk of having a totally outsourced supply chain, that being your ability to control such leaks in key information.

Bob Ferrari