Pickup in lens orders points to more tablets with cameras

Cameras are expected to become more common on tablet PCs this year

A Taiwanese producer of plastic lenses said on Wednesday its March revenues shot up because of a surge in orders from tablet PC makers, indicating that cameras will be installed on devices due for release later in the year.

A lot of first-generation tablets didn't feature cameras, but that's likely to change later this year after market-leader Apple added cameras to its iPad 2.

Taiwanese companies make many of the portable and tablet PCs sold by famous brands and rely on local suppliers for many of the components. The performance of these local parts makers often serves as a indicator to the future direction of the PC industry.

Largan Precision Co., Taiwan's largest handset camera lens maker, said that despite normally weak first-quarter income, revenues rose 52 percent last month compared to March 2010 as orders for tablet cameras mounted. The company took in NT$1.31 billion (US$44 million) in March.

Largan's March revenues rose 33 percent over February, suggesting an uptick in tablet camera interest began last month.

The orders are for lenses to go with cameras with resolution of up to 5 megapixels, said Largan spokesman Charles Chiu. He declined to say how many lens orders Largan took last month or who placed them.

"There's definitely a trend," said Wai Ho Leong, senior regional economist with Barclays Capital in Singapore. "Apple has seen fit to equip its iPad 2 with a camera, so the others will follow."

Samsung is expected this year to ship its Honeycomb-based Galaxy Tab 10.1 with an 8-megapixel resolution back camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. The Motorola Xoom released in the U.S. this year has a 5-megapixel rear camera.

Users will welcome the front-mounted cameras for video conferences but find tablets too clunky for taking photos, said Ian Peng, analyst with DigiTimes Research in Taipei. "It would be strange to take photos with such a big thing," Peng said.

Largan, founded in 1987, counts tablet makers Apple, HTC and Motorola as customers. The company normally makes camera lenses for notebooks and smartphones.

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Ralph Jennings

IDG News Service
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