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Summary:

Based on an app in the Mac App Store gaining “Retina graphics” support, it appears that Apple will introduce higher-resolution Mac hardware next week. But the costly displays are unlikely to be in base models. How much would you pay for a Retina Display option?

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New Mac hardware is widely expected to launch next week when Apple takes the stage at its WWDC event in San Francisco. Some are calling for Apple’s computers to gain a Retina Display, first made famous by the iPhone 4 and, more recently, the new iPad. It’s looking likely that some Macs will get a super high-resolution screen based on an app update in the Mac App Store.

The software first noted by The Next Web providing the hint of upcoming, higher-resolution screens is called Folder Watch and, according to what’s new in the Mac App Store, now supports “Retina graphics.” This is a Mac app, not one for iOS, so it leaves much less doubt that Retina Display Macs will appear next week. However, I’m not expecting this to be a base feature, but an option, which is very different from Apple’s iOS approach.

Apple’s standard operating procedure is to generally keep its hardware prices the same from year to year, but to improve it. Surely a Retina Display screen is an improvement, but not one we’ll see across the entire model line like we do with its mobile products.

Adding such a costly component to every Mac model would eat into Apple’s profit margin. Instead, I suspect the Retina Display will be an add-on option to base models. If so, Apple’s Retina Display Macs are finally arriving, but not everyone will have them, in contrast to the iPhone and iPad where every new purchase includes the high-resolution screen.

It would be nice if I were wrong and all new Mac hardware gained the better screens at no extra cost over last year’s model. I plan to replace my MacBook Air, so I’d really love to be wrong, in fact! We’ll see next week. Assuming I’m right, however, I’m wondering what the boosted pixel count is worth to you. I’m likely in if the cost is $300 or less. Let us know in the poll what you’d be willing to spend for this option!

  1. John S. Wilson Friday, June 8, 2012

    I agree that it’s a costly option but I still think it’ll be part of the base models. However I don’t think retina is coming to the Air. Instead I think they’ll keep it pro only for now and increase the base price. How much? Don’t know. But I would suspect $150-200.

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    1. I agree with the MB Air part, but I don’t think Retina will be more expensive on the other models…Apple doesn’t do that.
      Also, always keep in mind that Retina doesn’t mean 330+ dpi – not on a laptop and definitely not on a desktop…
      http://scottsscripts.wordpress.com/

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    2. I don’t think we will see Retina displays on other portable models too soon.

      On the 13″ Air & Pro, power & graphics requirements are still prohibitive if they want to keep thinness, battery life and costs in check.

      On the “regular” 15″ Pro, a drop-in BTO option isn’t much feasible, again for battery capacity requirements (the Retina Pro has a 95 Wh battery, vs 77.5 Wh, to achieve similar battery life), and because the screen and lid assembly seems to have a pretty different manufacturing process (having a separate manufacturing line just for an optional component is certainly doable but don’t fit much with Apple’s supply philosophy).

      And for what concerns a new iteration of the regular Pro with a default Retina cofiguration, I don’t think it will happen, for marketing reasons.

      The new Retina Pro is a much better proposition for Apple to build: no optical drive, less I/O components, soldered RAM, custom SSD… it all means smaller BOM, simpler assembly and no aftermarket upgrades, which in turn means more $$$ for Apple.

      I think they will keep the Retina display on that model only, to drag customers towards it, and they will phase out the classic Pro when the market will be ready to accept the lack of optical, ethernet, FW, upgradeable RAM and big mechanical drives on the whole portable line-up.

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  2. Knowing Apple, they hate changing things if they aren’t broken. The current price structure for their products is virtually perfect for Apple. Retina displays may cost a little more, but we’re talking $20 to $40 more per Mac, maybe. These high end displays obviously can’t cost too much if they’re fitting them into the iPad’s price point. Apple will more than make up for the costs by sales in the App Store.

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    1. Ronan Amicel Saturday, June 9, 2012

      iPad volumes are significantly higher than MacBook volumes, so the economics may not be the same.

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    2. Apple hates changing things that aren’t broken? Where have you been since Apple broke Snow Leopard, with change for the sake of change, and called it Lion?

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      1. Apple broke Snow Leopard? Care to explain that?

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      2. I’ve had no problems with Snow Leopard.

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  3. ANDRE SALAZAR Friday, June 8, 2012

    Typical article with NO facts to back-up claims. Then you hope you’re wrong, knowing that’s the more likely outcome, just to cover your a%*!

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  4. Any data from this stated preference willingness to pay is meaningless, not to mention the sampling bias here. Stated willingness to pay does not translate into behavior. Besides most people do not know what they are willing to pay.

    When apple introduces pricing for retina display (if it chooses to price separately) that version will be seen in the context of other offerings and that plays a role in customer selection as well (see for instance: http://www.slideshare.net/ragsvasan/macbookair )

    If you really are interested in finding it, let me know.
    -Rags

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  5. Apple can add costly technologies to the iPad and iPhone because of their tremendous volume advantages, which keeps these products price-competitive (or better).

    On the other hand the inclusion of expensive technologies is one of the things that, in the past, has prevented Mac hardware from having been fully cost-competitive.

    A good strategic move might be to allow high iPad and iPhone margins to partially subsidize lower Mac margins, adding higher-cost technologies to Mac products while not raising prices. High-res screens might be a good example of such a strategy.

    This would give Mac products a difficult-to-compete-with technological advantage against their rivals, in addition to competitive pricing, and help maintain the Mac’s status as a halo product.

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  6. Apple already charges more for a “Hi-Res” display in their Macbook Pros. In the 15″ model, 1440-by-900 is standard, but for $100 more you can upgrade to a 1680-by-1050 display.

    Based on that, my guess is Apple will make the “Retina Display” an add-on, as the article states. The question is, what will the base model’s resolution be? Are they going to keep that at 1440-by-900 or will now get 1680-by-1050 by default? The latter would be nice.

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