Sharp Corp., a major supplier of display units for Apple’s iPad tablet line has slowed down production of its 9.7 inch panels. The displays are used on Apple’s full-sized iPad tablets.

Reuters has learned that Sharp’s production plants are now churning out only enough Apple iPad displays to run at minimum operating capacity. The report suggests that production from Sharp’s Kameyama plant in Japan has “fallen to the minimal level to keep the line running this month after a gradual slowdown began at the end of 2012 as Apple manages its inventory”.

Sharp is refusing to disclose production levels since its business is with Apple and not the general public.

Apple iPad Display Sales

The change in production numbers could be caused by various variables. For example, a change in buying habits from the busy holiday shopping season to January could be causing a temporary lack of demand. Another possibility is that the 7.9-inch Apple Mini is cannibalizing sales. Some analysts have worried that the cheaper $329 Apple iPad Mini was eating into Apple profits by stealing away interest from the company’s larger iPad units.

Another possibility is that Apple is simply preparing to announce its next generation model which could feature a different display type, thus slowing production of older iPad screens.

Of course customers could simply be moving away from Apple iPad devices as other offerings from Samsung, Amazon and even Barnes & Noble flood the market.

The report does not take into consideration the production levels for iPad screens at LG Display. LG is the largest supplier of Apple displays at this time, along with Samsung Display, and Apple may have shifted more work towards that tech firm. Apple manufacturers have had issues producing Apple displays as they have become more complex and thinner. There is the possibility that Apple is simply giving more work to manufacturers who can sustain high levels of successful output.

Apple will release its Q1 2013 fiscal report on January 23, at which time we may have more insight into the Sharp display cutbacks.

[Image via Gizmodo]