Apple losing the display resolution race?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
April 1st, 2004 • 1:18 am

The Mac Observer has an interesting article by John Kheit on Apple’s failure to keep up with the latest improvements in screen resolution.

While I don’t know enough about the Windows platform to really compare the two, it seems obvious to me that the ultimate goal is to have computer screens whose resolution rivals that of printed materials. We still have a long way to go, obviously. But if Apple wants to stay on the forefront in terms of innovation, it needs to keep try and keep up. Right now, the biggest Apple laptop has a resolution of 1440×900 pixels, and the biggest desktop display (the 23″ flat panel) hasn’t changed in more than two years.

On the software front, there are several essential aspects of the Mac OS X interface that do not appear to be scalable. The entire UI itself should have a resolution setting. And third-party software should have built-in resolution settings as well, so that people don’t resort to unacceptable work-arounds such as changing font sizes (!).

As a typical example, I provide tech support to several users of iMac flat-panel machines, and there is a significant difference between the resolution of an iMac 15″ and that of an iMac 17″. There are people who are comfortable with the Mac OS X UI in the default resolution on the iMac 15″, but find that this UI is too small with the resolution of the iMac 17″. I even have one person who is actually using a non-native screen resolution on her iMac 17″ because she can’t read the default character size in Mac OS X’s menus! In other words, she’d rather live with a blurry flat-panel display set at a (non-native) lower resolution than with the crisp display at its default resolution!

And Apple also needs to realize that some third-party products, such as Microsoft Word, handle variations in resolution very poorly. Too many people do not know how to force Word to always open its documents with a 150% zoom setting, because it requires fiddling with VisualBasic macros. So they end up using unacceptable work-arounds such as choosing a default font size that’s way too big (such as 13 or 14) and produces clearly inappropriate printed results.

In other words, there’s a lot of work to be done in this area. Apple needs to be more aggressive on the hardware front and to adapt its Mac OS X software so that it’s more scalable for the end user.

2 Responses to “Apple losing the display resolution race?”

  1. Edmund says:

    The reason why Apple hasn’t introduced displays with a higher pixel densitiy is simply because the current version of Mac OS X is not ready for it. When OS support is available for higher res screens, the hardware will follow.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Whether the software or the hardware is to blame, the bottom-line is still that Apple is falling behind. Last time I checked, Mac OS X was made by Apple too :).

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