During Apple’s first-quarter 2011 financial results conference call today, Apple COO Tim Cook made several statements that suggest the company sees display technology as a potential component investment for the future. When asked about Apple’s long-term investments on components, Cook mentioned the company’s prior $1 billion flash memory investment as something that was important across the product line, and added that the company has identified a similarly important area in recent quarters. Cook said that the company has come into pre-payment agreements in this new area for parts, equipment, and tooling in hopes of achieving a specific competitive advantage. While Cook didn’t directly mention it, separate reports from the same week in December claimed that Apple was expected to supply a portion of the investments required for a new Toshiba LCD plant and Sharp LCD production line, respectively. Both reports specifically mentioned that as a result of Apple’s investment, the new factory and new production line were expected to produce displays primarily for the Cupertino-based company. Given Apple’s reliance on touchscreen technology in its iOS devices, it seems likely that these were the agreements to which Cook was referring during the call.
Update: The investment is worth $3.9 billion dollars over two years, and involves three vendors. Apple made pre-payments of $650 million during the last quarter, and expects to make $1.05 billion in payments during the March quarter.