Do you know what 4K displays are? 4K is a loose term for any type of display device (commonly TV and monitor set-ups) that has 4,000+ pixels going horizontal. Well, actually its inclusive of 3,840+ pixels wide - I guess they decided to round up simply for marketing purposes.
Put simply, 4K displays are going to be the next big thing when it comes to your home displays. The same way that DVD has graduated to Blu-Ray quality, today's displays are going to graduate - albeit eventually - to 4K displays.
(click to enlarge - courtesy c|net)Click to enlarge
Currently, it's not possible to get 4K content through our conventional streaming means. It's been widely established that for 4K to go as mainstream as HD is now, we would need a major revamping of our network and the way we think about broadband.
4K televisions are currently in the tens of thousands of dollars, but if you've watched how electronics have evolved, you know it's not going to be long before they're affordable to the average consumer. Remember when DVD players were $150 and the first "flat" screen TVs were $9999 for 40"? Now, you can get a DVD player for $29 and a real 40" ultra-flat HDTV screen TV for $500.
C|Net thinks it's just a matter of time before 4K is everywhere:
Will the extra resolution offered by 4K make movies better? You could argue that it depends on the format of the original film. For example, "The Blair Witch Project" and "28 Days Later" were both shot with standard-definition camcorders, and there would arguably be little extra benefit to buying either movie in a 4K native format over a DVD -- depending on the quality of the scaler in your brand-new 4K screen, of course.
Even with reference-quality native 4K material, however, a 4K-resolution TV or projector won't provide nearly the visible improvement over a standard 1080p model that going from standard-def to high-def did. To appreciate it you'll have to have sit quite close to a large screen -- sort of like being in the front few rows of a movie theater.
But whether it's 4K or 8K, you can bet that manufacturers haven't run out of cards when it comes to marketing the next "must-have" feature in the coming crops of televisions.
What does this have to do with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)? You know, the company's most rabid base consists of photographers, cinematographers and graphic designers?
It's looking like Apple is trying to make the jump to 4K a bit early on the adoption curve, as the company has been known to do. C|Net reported on Apple playing nice with full 4K display support in Mavericks:
In Apple's OS X Mavericks beta 10.9.3, users are given the option to run the operating system in native 4K resolution on 4K/Ultra HD monitors attached to their Macs, 9to5Mac discovered on Friday. Apple is calling the 4K support "Retina" in Mavericks, the site claimed.
That Apple is playing nicer with 4K displays is perhaps no surprise. The technology is quickly gaining ground in the monitor and television space, and more and more devices will need to support the technology. Although Macs currently support 4K monitors, they simply use the extra lines of resolution to display larger windows and interface elements.
According to 9to5Mac, the new Retina feature correctly scales the operating system to the Ultra HD display, making everything sharper and more readable. The resolution appears to look the same as Retina displays running on a late-2013 MacBook Pro, said 9to5Mac.
The news came to light when a beta tester posted a screenshot of him/herself running the latest version of OS X with an Ultra HD monitor:
You know how the latest version of OS X is 10.9.2? If you're running it, apparently you're exactly point-one versions away from "Retina" 4K support - also known as "pixel doubling" - in OS X. That's according to a beta tester who posted a screen capture of the new setting, per the just-released beta version of OS X 10.9.3 to Twitter last night.
KhaosT's monitor is a Dell UP2414Q, according to his screenshot. That makes it a Dell UltraSharp 24 Ultra HD monitor, according to Dell, with a native resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels. That's 4K resolution, or what passes for 4K, since the marketing department won that particular spec-branding tug of war match ("3840K" sounds even kludgier than "1080p").
So what does this mean to your average Apple fanatic? A couple of things. First, they're still going to stay on the front of the adoption curve with the crowd that loves them the most - designers, graphic artists, and the rest of the artsy fartsy constituency that I'm also part and parcel with. I know many people that are Mac users that are going to absolutely dig if Apple can make this (somewhat) affordable and provide support for 4K.
Further, other Apple fanatics that make up the "I've got tons of money and just want to stay tragically hip" constituency will likely take this as a prompting to go out and upgrade any and all digital display devices in their homes.
Additionally, it's just one more way the company is staying innovative and on the front of the ever changing technology adoption curve. This is what it looks like when you run something like Windows XP on a 4K display without the proper support.
Further, if they really are going to do an Apple TV - oh, man, do I even want to go there?
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.