Devastating. There are no words to effectively convey the human catastrophe suffered in Japan. Engadget would like to express our sincere condolences to those readers personally affected by recent events.
As a tech publication, we're obviously focused on the impact these events will have on Japan's vast consumer electronics industry -- an industry that has responded with millions of dollars in cash, equipment and services to help with the relief effort. Thus far, Canon, Panasonic, and Sony have each pledged ¥300 million ($3.67 million) in donations. Sony is also matching employee contributions as will Mitsubishi who's donating a whopping ¥500 million ($6.1 million) in aid. On the equipment side, Sony is donating some 30,000 radios to relief efforts while Panasonic is providing 10,000 radios, 10,000 flashlights, and 500,000 batteries. NEC, Kyocera, and Epson are each donating ¥100 million in funds, computers, and telecoms and IT equipment.
While it's still too early to quantify the exact impact the earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear troubles will have on the global tech industry, the scope of the issues is becoming clearer now that the initial chaos
has passed. Click through to see how everything from laptop batteries to iPads
are at risk.
Already, we're seeing reports predicting shortages of components that could ultimately create delays and / or increase the prices of our favorite gadgets. 32-gigabit NAND pricing has already jumped 18 percent according to DRAMeXchange on news that Toshiba had suspended operations at a chip plant in the Iwate Prefecture. Remember, Japan manufactures over 40 percent of the worldwide NAND flash, much of that coming from Toshiba -- the very supplier found lurking inside of the iPad 2
. While Tosh says that the plant doesn't seem to have suffered any significant damage, it's still assessing the situation against a series of aftershocks (likely to continue for one or two months) and doesn't know when it will be able to resume production.
Of course, the integrity of facilities is just one piece to the manufacturing puzzle. Plants still require raw materials that necessitate a working transportation system of rails, roads, and harbors, all of which presupposes the ready availability of fuel and electricity. Regarding the latter, Tokyo Electric has lost 27 percent of its electricity generation capacity leaving it 10 million kilowatts short of demand. As a result, Tokyo, where many of Japan's consumer electronics companies are headquartered, and eight other prefectures will begin rationing electricity until the end of April -- possibly longer as power demand spikes with summer air conditioner demands. The rolling outages will last anywhere between three and six hours. Toshiba and Sony (and likely others) have already announced their compliance with the government's request to shutdown all non-essential electricity-consuming facilities and operations unrelated to social and economic activities.
In addition to the impact on flash memory supplies, we're starting to see a more detailed view of other components impacted by recent events. Sony has stopped or limited production at eight manufacturing plants as it ascertains damage and waits for power to be restored. The disruption affects Sony-built magnetic tape, optical films, laser diodes, lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, CD, DVD, and Blu-ray discs. Panasonic, Fujifilm, Nikon, and Canon have all shut down factories in the affected regions related to the production of digital cameras and lenses. Canon estimates that some of its facilities, including those that produce interchangeable lenses and inkjet cartridges for its printers, will be offline for up to a few weeks, possibly shifting production to alternative sites if its systems don't come online over the next month.
Obviously, much of this remains in flux so we'll continue to provide updates when appropriate to our coverage of consumer electronics.
[Image credit: Google