There was one notable omission from Apple’s recent flurry of new product announcements: a 4K display. It will launch one in time, of course – and I’ll come to that shortly. But in the meantime, there’s the question of how it demonstrates one of the key capabilities of the new Mac Pro.
Sure, they could hook it up to multiple Thunderbolt Displays, but that’s not the same: Apple made a point when launching the machine of pointing out that it could drive three simultaneous 4K displays. That’s a capability you’d imagine it would want to at least show off in-store, and perhaps even offer for sale …
Apple using third-party displays in stores is not unprecedented. It already uses Sony TVs to demo Apple TV. At the launch event, Apple demo’d the Pro with Sharp 32-inch 4K displays. It wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see the same displays used in-store as a demonstration.
Would Apple also offer those same displays for sale? Using my Apple TV comparison, you might say no: you can’t buy a Sony TV in the Apple Store to go with your Apple TV. But it’s not really the same: almost everyone already has a suitable TV, while the Mac Pro may very well be what drives the purchase of a 4K display or three. Put that beautiful Sharp display for sale alongside the Pro and Apple would likely sell as many of those as it does Mac Pros, maybe more.
Which, of course, raises another possibility: maybe the Apple 4K Thunderbolt Display is waiting, as yet unannounced, in the wings. The Mac Pro isn’t going to be available until December, possibly online first, so may not make a physical appearance in stores until January or February. It’s not impossible that Apple could be waiting until nearer the time to announce its own 4K display.
But I’m guessing not. While there are some budget 4K panels around, the decent ones still cost more than the Mac Pro itself. The pros will pay that, but not most consumers.
You might ask ‘so what?’. Consumers aren’t going to buy the Mac Pro either. Apple is pitching it at the high-end pro market, so why not make a high-end display to go with it? To which I have three answers.
First, Apple announced the Mac Pro back in June. That would have been the obvious point at which to announce a matching display. If not then, then certainly when it announced the availability, because that’s the point at which many intending customers will start looking around for – and perhaps buying – the displays. Failing to mention that it has one on the way would be dumb, and I don’t think Apple’s dumb.
Second, even the latest MacBook Pros can’t really drive 4K displays. Not properly. Not at decent frame-rates. Offering a display that would reveal the limitations of its shiny new machines wouldn’t make much sense. I say Apple will wait until next year’s models, powerful enough to drive a 4K display at a sensible frame-rate.
Third, while 4K displays are high-end devices today, that’s going to change fairly rapidly. At some point in the next year or so, we’re all going to have one. Apple will want in on that action, and since it hasn’t already announced a pro model, my money says it is waiting until it can make it at least semi-affordable. Enough to attract well-heeled consumers as well as pros.
A current-model Thunderbolt 27 display costs a thousand bucks. It’ll be a while before Apple-quality 4K displays hit that kind of price level, but I’m guessing Apple wants to get within shouting distance of it. Maybe $1499, perhaps $1999, but not more. That’s what I think Apple has planned, and that’s not something I expect to happen by February.