iPad Performance Should Challenge Monitor Makers

I must say that I felt something of an anti-climax after the Apple announcement last week. After all the hype, there was a thought that there might be something really revolutionary but, in the end, the announcement was the upgraded iPad that we had all been expecting. It would be a mistake, however, to just say it was ‘just an upgrade’.

I think, and fervently hope, that the arrival of a ‘Retina Display’ for the iPad3 could be much more significant. The reality is that the iPad3 has a display that is significantly better than almost all the displays sold by the PC industry, not just in the notebook field, but in the monitor area. Monitors are sold to be the specialist peripheral for viewing content on PCs that are used day in and day out for productivity applications and for the best home computing experiences. Despite this specialist role, only around half of one percent of the current monitor market in Europe is offering performance that can match or beat this new consumer device. The half of one percent is the combined total of 27″ four megapixel (2560 x 1440) displays and 30″ 2560 x 1600 displays.

The three megapixel display on the iPad is twice as good in resolution as the two megapixel 1920 x 1080 format displays that have been the main focus of the makers of LCDs and monitors in recent years. It also uses IPS technology so that the colours are more consistent than on the commonly used TN displays in desktop monitors. Desktop monitor suppliers are happy to supply, as a mainstream display product, panels that simply change colour significantly when viewed from off-axis. That, to a newcomer to the industry, might seem completely bizarre.

My OLED-based smartphone looks better than any of the LCD monitors that I use.

At a very fundamental level, Apple has been offering products that look significantly better than the monitors that the industry has been producing for years. Apple has been growing its business and profits consistently, while the ASP for monitors has been going down for a long time, and volumes are now declining as well. Even the TV business is talking about the shift to 4K x 2K (or eight megapixels) as the next step in TV. Yet, there have been no monitors available with this resolution since IBM’s Bertha (although we did see a panel for monitors from Sharp with this resolution at ISE, so there is some hope).

I know the arguments about viewing distances and fonts, and why high resolution is ‘too difficult’, but really I cannot accept that the industry and the powerhouse companies are unable to change things.

Before long, the worst displays in my world will not be those that have to be incredibly portable and low power in my smartphone or in a tablet, or the very large display that is my TV, but will be the desktop monitor and the notebook that I use all day every day.

Unless monitor and LCD makers actually do something to push the software companies and system suppliers to support higher resolution and wide and accurate colour, the industry will miss an opportunity to capture more value from its clients.

(I’m not alone in this view. There are several other independent analysts in this field that support this point of view. There is a lot that we could do to promote this concept and would be happy to work together to do this, but there seems to be little appetite for this in the vendor community.)