After iPad, Apple gets 'resolutionary' with high-res Macs

By Jonny Evans

The surveys are in and they tell us the Retina Display is far and away the favorite feature on the new iPad, but it won't stop there -- because Apple [AAPL] plans a fresh 'resolution' with higher-res Macs.

[ABOVE: Apple explains the iPad's Retina Display technology.]

The evidence:

-- Apple's recently introduced OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion developer release contains double resolution icons.

-- Recent claims said next-gen MacBook Pros will be equipped with a high-res display, potentially as high as 2,880-x-1,800.

-- Apple introduced HiDPI resolution-doubling software to OS X Lion earlier this year.

Adding a little more speculation, it is interesting to note that Apple's manufacturing partner, Foxconn -- currently busily assembling production lines for iPhone 5 -- last week took a 10 percent slice of Japanese firm, Sharp.

Foxconn's Sharp edge

Foxconn/Hon Hai will purchase up to 50 percent of the large-size LCD panels and LCD modules manufactured at Sharp's plant in Osaka, Japan.

Sharp had been expected to create the MultiTouch/Retina displays for the new iPad, but production difficulties apparently frustrated that plan.

Macs don't need MultiTouch displays, so might Sharp be the source for future high-res Mac displays? Announcing the deal, Foxconn also noted Sharp would manufacture components. Could its remit include Imagination Tech-based Apple graphics chips for Macs?

During the new iPad launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook pretty much put the company's rep on the line, promising a good deal of innovation in the post-Jobs, post-PC era: "Only Apple could deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated way. It's what we love to do. It's what we stand for. Across the year, you're going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation. We are just getting started."

[ABOVE: Narrowing the post-PC divide, AirDisplay extends the desktop of a Mac to an iOS or Android device.]

You are the display

As devices become more personal. As apps become more central to the user experience and as the no-man's land between mobile apps and those for PCs inevitably begins to shrink, the display will become an ever more essential element to a good user experience. The display is what you see, and as movement and voice replace the traditional mouse/keyboard interface for so many missions, display technology will rapidly emerge as yet another new battle ground for consumer electricals.

What else uses a display? Apple's intentions to resolutionise television (delayed now until 2013, recent claims, erm, claimed) were also hinted at during the iPad 3 launch when company marketing chief, Phil Schiller, actually took time to note the Retina Display on the tablet actually offers more pixel density than an HD TV. These claims are overtly repeated on the Apple website (image below).


Triple-screened threat

I think this suggests a move to advanced graphics technologies in a future Apple television. This would deliver the product an additional USP (other than iDevice and iTunes support, apps, games and motion/voice-sensitive controls).

It also means the company is plotting a course to source huge displays capable of industry-defining resolutions. And if it can ship the screen for a television in quantity, then surely it makes sense to ship a few for the Mac as well?

That iMac in your room will also be the best HDTV. These devices will boast AirPlay support, you'll be able to watch and listen to your games and media on whichever device you happen to want to use: iPhone, iPad, Apple television, Mac or Apple TV-powered TV. At least, that's how it seems.

The fractured garden

Is there substance to this speculation? I've tried to assemble the existing circumstantial evidence above, though Apple may prefer to field new high-res display Macs at a point subsequent to the introduction of the Apple television.

One thing is for sure -- Apple under Tim Cook is becoming far more enigmatic, both more transparent and more opaque:

-- When it comes to grappling with the big issues, such as working conditions in the iPhone factories, Apple is prepared to tackle matters in the public eye.

-- Yet, when it comes to product introductions, it is less predictable than ever before.

It is also more prepared to use its growing market power to focus its supply chain on just one thing: to deliver products which set new targets for the industry as a whole, aiming to surprise and delight its customers and to stay ahead of its increasingly dangerous competition.

With this in mind, a move to increase resolution on Apple's Macs makes perfect sense, as the once near-death company comes back to show a once complacent PC industry how things can be done. Might Siri come to the Mac, too?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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