Technology

What's Up With Apple: Component Shortage Looms, Google Whines, and More

The global shortage of semiconductors is about to hit Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Actually, it already has. In his August earnings call, CEO Tim Cook warned that its supply of chips would affect sales of iPhones and iPads in the company’s fourth quarter, which ends this week.

Now, MacRumors is reporting that Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is forecasting a rough first half of 2022. Kuo expects shipments of MacBooks powered by Apple’s own chips will be cut in the first six months of next year as a result of component shortages, a decline in demand for new hardware for people who will work from home and the transition to a new MacBook Air due in the third quarter of next year: “We forecast that the shipment of Apple Silicon processor-based MacBook models will be cut by approximately 15% in 1H22.”

Kuo specifically mentioned the “continuing” lack of power management chips, commenting that lead times for delivery reach as far out as 52 weeks. One of Apple’s Taiwan-based suppliers, Unimicron, is the sole supplier of a chip’s ABF substrate, an insulating layer used on high-performance CPUs and other chips. (Unimicron’s production plant in northeast China has been closed this week as the country struggles with electricity demand.)

In late 2018, the European Union (EU) levied a fine of $1.7 billion against Alphabet/Google for infringing European competition law. That fine, added to two prior fines for related offenses, brought Google’s total penalty to $9.32 billion. Of that total, a $5 billion fine levied in July 2018 was the largest.

Google has appealed the $5 billion fine to the European General Court, and the first hearing on the appeal was held Monday. According to Reuters, lawyers for Google dumped on Apple, claiming that Alphabet’s Android mobile operating system “is an exceptional success story of the power of competition in action”:

The Commission shut its eyes to the real competitive dynamic in this industry, that between Apple and Android. …

By defining markets too narrowly and downplaying the potent constraint imposed by the highly powerful Apple, the Commission has mistakenly found Google to be dominant in mobile operating systems and app stores, when it was in fact a vigorous market disrupter [sic].

A lawyer for the European Commission pooh-poohed the claim: “Bringing Apple into the picture doesn’t change things very much. Google and Apple pursue different models.”

Last year, when Apple introduced the iPhone 12 Series, the Brazilian government fined the company $1.9 million for failing to include a charger with the new phones. This year, the new iPhone 13 Series, was also shipped sans charger and Brazilian authorities are preparing to fine Apple again, according to a report at AppleInsider.

Finally, former Apple design chief, Jony Ive, is going to work for Ferrari. Ive, who has formed his own design firm, LoveFrom, since departing Apple in 2019, will perform unspecified design work for the iconic automaker and for its controlling owner, Exor. Italy’s Agnelli family controls Exor and also owns Stellantis, maker of Chrysler and Fiat vehicles, among other things. Ferrari is planning to introduce its first all-electric car in 2025, and Ive is expected to work on that and other projects.