Wednesday, October 15, 2008

DisplayPort and the new MacBooks

Here is a very, very good article on DisplayPort.

Let me highlight a few things that will help shed light on Apple's new 24" LED Cinema Display with DisplayPort:

1. DisplayPort uses a packet data architecture (like Firewire and Ethernet) which is very different from HDMI or DVI.

2. DisplayPort carries audio, video, and data, all bi-directionally.

3. DisplayPort can send a DVI-type signal for conventional displays.

4. DisplayPort is designed to handle internal as well as external connectors. It's practically custom-made for laptops, with the ability to carry commands to devices such as backlight (for brightness), status lights, etc over its data channel, without adding more wires.

It's now clear to me that DisplayPort is not just another variant of DVI. (HDMI is basically DVI + audio + a specific encryption protocol, and it's not bidirectional.) This means that it could be very challenging to make the new 24" LED Cinema Display work with older MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

Not impossible, surely -- remember the $400 DVI-to-ADC adapters sold before Apple started selling their own? -- but not a simple physical adapter like Firewire 800-to-400. And, probably not cheap either, unless someone like Apple themselves throw enough business to a manufacturer to amortize the development cost across a lot more units than most niche players can expect to sell.

(Thanks to Daring Fireball for the link.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marginal revenue maximization

Remember the Pro/Consumer Portable/Desktop 2x2 product matrix Steve Jobs introduced a decade ago to simplify Apple's confusing product offerings? It has completely fallen apart. Let's examine what you can buy today:


MacBook (Plastic): $999, entry level
MacBook (Metal): $1300, entry level + style
MacBook (Metal): $1600, entry level + style + CPU boost + disk
MacBook Air: $1800, light weight
MacBook Air SSD: $2500, light weight + high tech + less slow CPU
MacBook Pro 15": $2000, power user + Firewire
MacBook Pro 15": $2500: power user + Firewire + RAM + disk + minor CPU boost
MacBook Pro 17": $2700: power user + Firewire + big display (- slower GPU!)

Apple has hit the entire gamut of possible price points between $1000 and $2000, in roughly $200-300 increments. I think the goal here is not simplicity like in 1999, but maximizing revenue from each potential buyer.


Desktops have a similar distribution of prices, but there is less functional overlap across families:

Mac Mini: $600, entry level, BYOKDM
Mac Mini (fat): $800, entry level + disk + CPU + SuperDrive, BYOKDM
iMac 20": $1200, entry level complete system
iMac 20" (fat): $1500, entry level complete system + CPU + RAM + disk
iMac 24": $1800, deluxe complete system
iMac 24": $2100, deluxe complete system + CPU + disk + GPU
Mac Pro (CTO stripped): $2300, expandable base
Mac Pro: (standard): $2800, power user standard 8 core

Once again, they're hitting a bunch of price points, from $600 to $2800 at fairly even $200-300 increments.