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iPad teardown reveals big winners in tablet design game

March 15, 2012|By David Sarno
  • A sign for the new iPad on display at The Grove in Los Angeles. iFixit traveled to Australia to pick up the gadget, just to take it apart.
A sign for the new iPad on display at The Grove in Los Angeles. iFixit traveled… (David Sarno / Los Angeles…)

If you're going to fly around the world to be among the first on Earth to get a new iPad, you may as well run directly to a workshop with your new prize, the better to tear it apart in a matter of minutes.

That's what iFixit has become famous for, and the gadget repair firm has done it again. The firm's co-founder Luke Soules flew to Melbourne, Australia, to get a head start on the rest of the world, and the opportunity to crack open the device and see what's inside it.

It's not just idle curiosity either -- the iPad's dozens of components tell an important business story: which electronics makers have wooed Apple with the most advanced screens, radios, microchips and other components -- and secured themselves multimillion-dollar contracts in so doing.

Soules' research revealed that Irvine-based Broadcom Corp., for instance, supplied the new iPad with its combined Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip, among the most competitive parts of the new generation of mobile devices.  Broadcom competes along with firms like Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and others to get design "wins" -- that is, to get their components in a product like the iPad. 

Broadcom's stock rose 2.44% in regular trading Thursday as iFixit's revelation spread around.

Qualcomm supplied the device's 3G and 4G cellular modem, which lets it communicate over cellular data networks. Its stock ticked up slightly, but not as much as Texas Instruments, which gained 2.41% after the iFixit research showed it had made a component that powered the iPad's touchscreen.

iFixit's technicians said they had an inordinately difficult time getting the iPad open -- a problem it said constituted an environmental no-no, as well as making it problematic to repair.

"The adhesive on the front is extremely difficult to remove without damaging the glass, making repair and end-of-life recycling very difficult," iFixit wrote. "Schools deploying the iPad for their students are going to be in for a lot of repair technician training."

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