Dell

Apple's MacPro 4K monitor: Leaving money on the table

December 19, 2013: 8:00 AM ET

Why is Apple selling its new MacPro with a monitor made by Sharp? Three theories.

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 6.08.40 AMFORTUNE -- "It's a Christmas miracle," joked Daring Fireball's John Gruber Wednesday. He was talking about Apple's (AAPL) announcement that its high-end "Darth Vader" MacPro would be available for sale Thursday -- making good the promise marketing VP Phil ("Can't innovate anymore, my ass") Schiller made in June that the machine would ship in December.

Then Gruber added:

"And [there was] no surprise 4K Cinema Display announcement, which means that if you want a new 4K display (or three) to go with your new Mac Pro, dude you're getting a Dell. All joking aside, I'm disappointed and a little baffled that Apple doesn't yet have a 4K display. It's un-Apple-like to leave money on the table."

As promised, the MacPro appeared on Apple's online store Thursday morning, starting at $2,999. But as it turns out, it's neither a Christmas miracle nor a windfall for Dell (DELL). If you order a MacPro today, shipping isn't guaranteed before Dec. 30 -- way too late for Santa -- and, dude, the 4K monitor offered for sale on the site is Sharp's (SCHAY), not Dell's.

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 6.08.24 AM

Click to enlarge.

Why isn't Apple making the monitor? Three theories:

  • The iTV theory: Wedge Partner's Brian Blair believes the transition from high definition monitors (vertical resolution of 1,080 pixels) to ultra high definition (horizontal resolution of 4,000 pixels) is a technological "jump ball" that Apple will use to finally break into the television market.
  • The "something bigger" theory: Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, iTV's biggest champion on Wall Street, is uncharacteristically skeptical. He believes the first Apple TVs will be HD, not UHD. "There's something bigger going on," he told Investors.com's Patrick Seitz, without suggesting what that something might be.
  • The razor-thin profit margin theory: I think Apple is staying out of the 4K monitor market for much the same reason it's so far stayed out of the television market. The profit margins on 4K monitors may be attractive today, but history suggests they won't be for long. Dell is already selling a 4K monitor for $95.01 less than Sharp's. Racing to the bottom is not Apple's style.

UPDATE: As of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the best Apple could promise would-be MacPro customers was a February ship date. It's President's Day miracle!

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