Would a 4K Display for Mac Pro Spill Apple’s UHDTV Beans?

| Analysis

We know that Apple's new Mac Pro can drive three 4K displays. We also know that Apple has a keen interest in next generation television, and that may be reflected in an Ultra High Definition 4K TV set, not just a follow-on to the current Apple TV. So how do the two relate, if at all? Let's explore the situation.


First, one has to size up whether Apple would include the guts of a next generation TV system in any 4K display they might produce for the new Mac Pro. I doubt they would because 1) it would drive the price up and 2) the activities on a 4K display connected to a Mac Pro are very different than family TV viewing.

So delivering a naked, so to speak, 4K display along with the new Mac Pro makes sense. It also puts a lot of money in Apple's pocket, and Apple has the opportunity to match the design and interface to the Mac Pro.

Even so, there are those who think that Apple isn't going to offer a branded 4K display for the Mac Pro because it might, somehow, give away Apple's plans for it's next generation family UHDTV. I doubt it, but it's something to consider.

Another factor is that Apple may think that 4K TVs and displays, when combined with its own special sauce, would be just too expensive right now, and they're going to let the market naturally drive the price down. The limited quantities of displays Apple might sell with the new Mac Pro won't do that, but the TV industry's rush into 4K UHDTV sets for the living room would.

That could mean that Apple is so confident that it has something very cool that letting the TV industry flood the market with progressively cheaper dumb (and smart) 4K TV's won't hurt its future prospects. Surveys have already shown that the average customer isn't in the mood for a smart TV anyway. It's too scary, too complicated and too expensive.

Apple probably has big plans to fix that customer temperament and fix it good.

The cost curve is a delicate balancing act for Apple. Timing is everything. Everyone wants to see the fruits of Apple's next generation TV thinking for the family right away, but Apple's has to seize the right moment in the pricing curve.

As for the Mac Pro, if Apple does offer a matching 4K computer display  when the Mac Pro ships, I don't think there's anything special to read into that.

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Or as I’v been saying for a few years now they AREN’T GOING TO MAKE A TV IHDTV OR OTHERWISE. TV’s are an established market with lots of manufacturers, not the kind of thing they can go into and revolutionize like music players and smart phones. Secondly 4KTV is a great idea but like 3DTV of a couple of years ago there just isn’t enough content out there to make it a worthwhile investment. There won’t be for many years either. It’s this years Christmas gimmick that will be history in six months, just like 3DTV was. The stores were full of them that Christmas now I haven’t seen one anywhere in a year. I expect 4KTV will be the same.


That should be UHDTV


Actually, 4K is nothing like 3DTV. It’s not a gimmick. All of the major camera vendors are offering 4K versions and just about anything with digital post production (which is quickly becoming just “everything”) is being edited in 4K and cut down to 2K - if it’s not going to a digital theater, in which case it’s actually going to be projected in 4K. And all of the major editing software works with 4K spaces.
I don’t remember anyone showing cameras, screens, projectors, or editing software at this year’s National Association of Broadcasters show who WASN’T showing 4K. Quite frankly, the groundbreaking stuff that was being shown was broadcast 8K. That’s the one that’s going to take awhile. UHD is about one Christmas away from being the next 1080p - which has zero bearing, by the way, on whether or not Apple ever makes a TV set (or even their own 4K panel).


It is very possible that 4k is the next big thing, but not this year or next. There may be a lot of production done in it but most TVs out there aren’t going to use it. Even HDTV took a number of years before it became generally available and my cable service still only pushes regular HD out to around a quarter of the channels, mostly premium extra fee ones. There still is not much HD content and Shaw hasn’t even mentioned adding UHD at all. UHD is at least five years away from common acceptance, and I would not be surprised to see ten. HDTV also had the advantage that it involved replacing big heavy CRT television sets with flat, light, mountable, LCD and Plasma systems. Most everyone now has a good HDTV that works well and will continue to for many more years. That’s why I am so skeptical about Apple coming out with a TV. The market for HDTV is saturated with units that work ‘good enough’ and the UHD market is too far away. It would not sell enough units to make the investment profitable.


Do the current digital broadcast standards support 4K? From what I can tell it does not. So for the foreseeable future 4K content will be from Disc (Some new BluRay std?) and on-line/cable. I think this will fragment the market and it won’t be ready for prime time until new broadcast standards are complete. Something like North America’s ATSC 3.0.

So Apple may have a 4K display which is great for content creators but like the Mac Pro itself, it will not be a mainstream product. I doubt Apple will join the 4K parade with a TV until it does become mainstream.

So, if they do come out with an Apple branded Television, it will be 1080p and the press will lambaste them for serving up “old technology” and yet the user experience will cause Apple to sell them like hot-cakes.

John Martellaro

ctopher:  In this technical era, I don’t believe the adoption of 4K TV will be tied to plastic (next generation Blu-ray) or broadcast standards.  The ability to download in the background on the Internet will overrun the slow adoption of broadcast standards.  TV stations and providers have sunk too much money into 1080p to change now, but the Internet is a workaround.

Our hardware has made enormous progress since 2006-8, and so upconverting 1080p content will be just fine. Finally, for Apple to launch a 1080p TV wouldn’t be in line with its tradition of pushing the technology and enabling its own brand of hardware and software integration.

I will be writing more about all this.

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