While the modern global economy has allowed companies in far-flung parts of the world to get into manufacturing, one of the many issues they face is exchange rate fluctuations. Electronics manufacturers in Taiwan are currently feeling the pinch as the Taiwan dollar has climbed more than other currencies in the region, jumping 2.5 percent in the past month and 7.2 percent in the past year. Each percentage point of exchange rate increase translates to 0.5 percent of profit margin according to Wintek, which produces touch panels for many Apple devices.
Suppliers like Wintek rarely manage to achieve the sort of enormous profit margins that Apple does when selling to the consumer, and losing 3 percent off the top is tough to swallow. As a result, Taiwan-based companies may have to look at increasing the prices charged to Apple and other customers.
Apple's premium pricing to end customers means that it has some flexibility to absorb price increases from suppliers in the short term. That will, of course, hurt its profits, which it won't tolerate for very long. Given the competitive marketplace, Apple will be reluctant to increase prices, but if the exchange rate situation doesn't improve soon, we'll probably see some decontenting or a slow-down in the spec increases. Instead of seeing next-gen MacBooks and iPhones getting more memory or better cameras, they will probably hold steady.