Asian technology shares gained, helped by hopes of a recovery in battered chip prices and expectations that nimble Asian firms may slow the runaway success of Apple Inc after news CEO Steve Jobs was taking medical leave.
Shares of Samsung Electronics Co, the world's top memory chipmaker and No.2 handset vendor, jumped 3.3 percent on Tuesday to record highs and second-ranked memory chip maker Hynix Semiconductor rose 4.3 percent on hopes of a rebound in computer memory chips.
In Japan, Elpida Memory rose 2.9 percent and Taiwan's Powerchip rose 3 percent.
They were also buoyed by prospects of solid NAND-type flash memory chip sales, as a slew of Asian firms launch copycat mobile products that use flash chips to store data, benefiting key producers such as Samsung, Hynix and Toshiba.
Deemed irreplaceable by many Apple fans and investors, pancreatic cancer survivor Jobs said on Monday he would take medical leave, for the third time since 2004. The announcement, which came just a day ahead of the company's quarterly results, did not specify why or for how long he would be absent, unlike the previous one.
The announcement revived concerns over the long-term future of Apple, sending its shares tumbling close to 10 percent, although Jobs said Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook would take responsibility for day-to-day operations once again.
The impact of the Apple news could be mixed on the Asian technology sector. Many firms, including Taiwan-based Hon Hai, South Korea's LG Display and even Apple's emerging rival Samsung depend on the iPhone and iPad maker by manufacturing the hot selling devices and by supplying display, chips, phone cases and other accessories.
But analysts said the impact on Apple's operations and its Asian rivals and partners should be limited in the short term, since its product line-up was strong, although his absence would be a worry if it became prolonged. Cook ran day-to-day operations during Jobs' last absence in 2009.
Apple's roadmap is all set and its iPhone 5 is ready to go, leaving little room for competitors to cut into its share, said Bonnie Chang, an analyst at Yuanta Securities.
HTC may have to design more cutting-edged high-end products, but its roadmap for this year has already been laid out, it may have to wait till H2 if it wanted to do anything.
Shares in Hon Hai, which counts Apple as its major client, fell 0.4 percent and LG Display rose 1 percent, while smartphone maker HTC was unchanged.
Jobs' latest medical leave also comes at a time when it faces the biggest threat from Google, through its Android mobile operating system, which has seen torrid growth as preferred choice of both iPhone and iPad rivals.
Samsung, at the forefront of the long queue of rivals determined to halt Apple's stunning run of success, appears to remain a key threat.
Samsung has sold 10 million units of the Android-powered Galaxy S smartphone since its June launch and 1 million units of the Galaxy Tab tablet since October.
It has also launched the Nexus S smartphone recently based on the latest version of Android and plans a series of new product launches in February to double its smartphone sales this year to around 50 million units.
Android has rapidly overtaken Apple and Research in Motion's BlackBerry to become the second-most popular platform worldwide after Nokia's Symbian, and the most popular in North America and east Asia.
But a rapid rise of competitors adopting Android phones would mean little differentiation and weaker profit margin compared to Apple's estimated 40 percent-plus margins on the iPhone.
Even Sony joined the foray, declaring it wants to become No.2 tablet maker after Apple by 2012, although it has yet to unveil its own tablet and needs to regain the ground lost to Asian rivals first before targeting Apple, analysts said.
Sony... has branched out into movies, games music and other areas and that has meant Sony has had to spread its people across a wide set of objects. It means they lose sight of what consumers want, said Akihide Knugawa, a fund manager at T&D Asset Management, which owns Sony shares.
Also in the past Sony didn't have to compete against Taiwanese or Korean companies...Samsung's strength plus exchange rates (of a weaker won) make it difficult for Sony to come up from behind.
Apple, on Tuesday, is likely to report its quarterly revenue jumped more than 50 percent, backed by surging sales across its product lines including iPhone and iPad.
Strong sales of such devices and ensuing launches of copycat products by the likes of Lenovo Group, Motorola and Research In Motion are set to drive up demand of flash memory chips.
Prices of computer memory chips are also set to rebound as PC makers are preparing to raise per-system chip content and chip makers are readying for price hikes after steep chip price decline.
The Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday that Elpida planned to raise prices of DRAM chips by about 10 percent as early as this month.
The report of Elpida's price rise plan points to similar moves by domestic (Korean) chip makers and strengthens sentiment toward the sector, said Daewoo Securities analyst James Song.
DRAM prices are expected to continue to recover this year.
(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Clare Jim in Taipei; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)