Consumers can expect shortages of electronics

March 24, 2011 4:30:44 PM PDT
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan are causing even more problems -- this time with the electronic devices you may want to buy. Many of the Japanese factories that make computer chips and processors are shut down and that means there may be shortages. The shortages may start popping up within a few months for some products. Others could see shortages a lot faster than that.

Mitch Cholley had been thinking of getting an iPad 2, but the earthquake in Japan brought him to the store earlier than expected.

He said, "That's why I am here right now is to look at it because if it is going to be even harder to get, then I am probably going to get it today."

According to reports, two Japanese plants that make the glass overlay for the iPad 2 are offline because of the earthquake/tsunami. Potential shortages are something Cholley does not want to contend with.

"I did not realize that just about everything in the United States that has any kind of electronics, if that electronics comes from Japan, it is really going to be scary," Cholley said.

iPads are not the only things that could be in short supply. Sony, Panasonic and Canon all have factories that are shut down and the rolling blackouts are now plaguing parts of Japan.

While TVs, cameras and computers can be made in other parts of the world, the real concern is with the tiny parts inside the devices. Some are made almost exclusively in Japan.

Alex Diaz with Top Tech Experts explained, "These boards, these semi-conductors, are in all kinds of consumer electronics, from phones, laptops, desktops -- everything from components to vehicles and TVs."

Diaz makes his living repairing computers. He says spare parts for older devices should be OK, but the new products could suffer shortages if the factories do not come back online in the next few months.

"With a shortage, one, it can drive prices up and also be hard to find some of the hot items that are on the market -- the new cell phones, the new tablet PCs, things like that," Diaz said.

The shortages may be felt by consumers in a matter of weeks. Expect delayed rollout dates on some products and longer backlog orders for others.

Manufacture of some items can be moved to other places, but the chips and semiconductors are made in clean rooms, dust-free with special machines, things that are not easy to move or set up in other locations.