Saturday, October 1, 2022
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Comment: Apple, please don’t overthink your next external display


Apple hasn’t made an affordable high quality external display since 2016 when they retired the final iteration of the Thunderbolt Display. The company has a long history of offering the best possible mass market monitors for notebooks and desktops, dating back to the late 90s or the early days of the Studio Display. Apple’s made a lot of weird decisions over the past decade and this certainly falls under that category. Now that the company has started to reboot the Mac and meet the needs of clamoring customers, it’s time for them to step up and make the display we actually need.

The most recent external display from Apple is the Pro Display XDR, but it’s not for most of us and it’s certainly not a mass market product. There’s no obvious option for regular Mac customers or even power users who don’t need an advanced Hollywood studio reference display. And LG’s ultra fine displays that Apple likes to promote feel cheap and plasticky, it’s a travesty that they are acceptable to Apple.

Rumors of a new display

Rumors have started to pick up about a new more affordable Apple display that could come this year. Just this morning, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg reported that the company is indeed planning to release a display in 2022 that’s half the price of the Pro Display XDR. But the Pro Display XDR is $6,000-$7,000 leaving this rumored display to be around $3,500 still. This product isn’t what most of us are looking for. It’s not even out yet and most customers in the market for an Apple display have been priced out.

I fear that Apple is overthinking their external display strategy. Not every Apple customer is making multi-million dollar movies or editing professional photography. I know that we’ve all been talking about this for years now, but the answer to this problem is staring us right in the face.

Strip the iMac down

Apple launched the new 24-inch iMac in April of 2021 and it’s proven to be a huge hit for the company. It revived an aging product line that desperately needed attention. It packs a gorgeous 24-inch 4.5K Retina display that has spectacular color reproduction and viewing angles. It also comes in an ultra thin beautiful package. It’s not too big and not too small. It’s arguably the perfect size.

Apple should take the same display that’s in the 24-inch iMac, remove the computer and the chin and ship it as a display. The thin bezels make these a great candidate for sticking two together. There’d be very little space between them for your cursor to cross. Like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, they could offer the display in both silver and space gray. The silver model could have the same light gray bezel as the iMac, while the space gray one could adopt a matching black bezel. You could pick the right color based on your working space or even to match your machine.

Affordable pricing

The iMac starts at just $1,299. That base model comes with a Magic Keyboard ($99) and a Magic Mouse ($79). Right off the bat, you can remove $180 off the price. Apple’s displays don’t need to come bundled with other accessories. Then remove the actual computer. I can’t really say what the computer inside of the iMac would cost, but it’s likely that the display itself is a more expensive component than anything on the motherboard. Apple could probably charge less, but to maintain a healthy margin they could sell their display for just $999. In fact, that’s the price of the last consumer display that was retired in 2016.

That price is the sweet spot and it means that more people could have an Apple-designed display on their desk. There are so many individuals and organizations that have Thunderbolt displays on their last legs, this isn’t a product category for the company to ignore. If Apple were to make a $999 display like this, they’d start to appear all over the place.

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