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Memo to Apple: How About Updating Your Displays?

In yesterday’s commentary, I revealed the sad truth that I am actually using a Dell display. Yes, a Dell display. Now was it just due to the fact that the price is currently $629 for Dell’s 2407WFP 24-inch widescreen display, whereas Apple’s 23-inch HD Cinema Display is $999?

Well, certainly price can be a factor here, but it’s also true that Apple’s display is much prettier, which is why you see it more often on TV shows.

But there’s more: The Dell affords a slightly larger screen at the same 1920×1200 resolution as the Apple, which means that smaller elements, such as text, are a bit larger and more readable to my aging eyes. More to the point, The 2407WFP has a slightly higher contrast ratio, and you can certainly see the difference in the midtones. The Dell also incorporates four USB ports, compared to Apple’s two, and a card reader. All right, the Dell doesn’t have a FireWire port, but that’s nothing I’ve missed, since the ones on my desktop Mac are sufficient for my backup drives.

In other words — looks aside — the Dell is a better product, at a better price. Apple needs to read this real carefully, because I don’t think I’m alone in reaching this conclusion.

In fact, it very much appears as if Apple has set its monitor line aside. Other than a price reduction and some minor spec enhancements, how long has it been since there was a major upgrade? Sure, the Mac rumor sites come along every so often and claim that a refresh is imminent, but it never seems to happen.

Now although I prefer the Dell in this instance, the fact is that Apple’s displays look great, and perform quite well in most respects. Other models might be a little better, a little worse, but Apple isn’t giving you much of a price break. In fact, I truly wonder how many of these products are being sold these days, and what Apple’s goals might be.

Sure, it’s true that most Macs sold these days are note-books. The iMac also garners a fair number of sales, so monitors are only needed for the Mac mini and the Mac Pro, where sales aren’t quite as strong, and to replace older displays. So maybe Apple doesn’t feel the pressure.

Now, if I had a say in the matter — and I surely don’t — I’d suggest that Apple try to boost performance a bit, and cut prices substantially. The competition beats them in almost every respect. There doesn’t have to be a new design, a built-in iSight camera or anything of the sort.

At the same time, it would be nice to see Apple introduce a 17-inch widescreen display, at perhaps $299, for the Mac mini customer. Yes, $299 is not terribly economical for a screen of that size, but it’s not super high for a premium product. Moreover, it’s doubtful that the person who craves a Mac mini is really going to want a 20-inch or larger display, for otherwise they might as well consider an iMac, which is a more cost-effective combo.

At one time, Apple was always known for its stellar displays. They almost always had an entrant in different price and size categories. But development has stagnated. It’s not that LCD technology hasn’t advanced, because it has, although most of it is focused on high-definition TV. LCDs panels are also a whole lot cheaper, which is why you can buy those large flat-screen sets for a price that’s almost affordable.

So what is Apple’s game plan here?

I can’t say that I ever know — and certainly the Mac rumor sites haven’t shown any great insights in this area. On the other hand, when I find a Dell to be both better and cheaper, I have deep concerns.

Naturally, Apple could easily render all this speculation moot, simply by refreshing its display line with cheaper, better products. Should that happen, I can always bring up an argument about something else. Believe me, I haven’t run out of possibilities.

Now let’s see. Oh yes: Is Leopard development stalling? No, I think I’ve covered that already.