The World Is Flat (Or Will Be) (5/3/01)

Ah, the good ol' cathode ray tube-- for oh so many years, the CRT has been the window of the computer's soul. But is all that about to change? The popularity of LCD displays has been on the rise as the price of the technology continues to drop, and while there are certainly good reasons to love the time-honored CRT (price, better multiple resolution support, and color vibrancy, mainly), there are even more reasons why some people think they've long since worn out their welcome. For instance, they're fat. They're heavy. They put out a ton of heat. They suck down a ton of power. And they pump your head full of radiation without even giving you the proportionate strength of a spider. Where's the fun in that?

Now, given the inelegant nature of those particular drawbacks, we have to assume that Uncle Steve would love to rid the planet of CRTs just as he led the crusade against floppy drives. Certainly Apple's current line of displays backs up that theory; only one of Apple's three displays uses a CRT. On top of that, we've been hearing rumblings about industry-wide LCD price drops for a while, now, and don't forget that Apple has that spiffy investment in Samsung intended to provide some muscle when it comes to getting plenty of panels at good prices. Throw all those factors in a bowl, mix well, bake for thirty minutes at 350°, and presto: you get outfits like CNET reporting that Apple has definite plans to nix the CRT altogether, and soon. (Thanks to faithful viewer Simone Bianconcini for the link.)

Of course, in order for Apple to achieve that lofty goal, a few things are going to have to happen. First of all, LCD prices are going to have to keep plummeting. As it stands, the Apple Cinema Display is Apple's only model big enough for the creative professional, but at $2999, only six or seven people on the planet can afford one. On the lower end, the 15-inch Studio Display is gorgeous in all its LCD-based glory, but even the recently-reduced price of $799 can sound like an awful lot to the average shopper for fifteen inches of screen. If Apple's going to ditch its 17-inch CRT-based offering, it had better be able to shift the 15-inch LCD into that $499 price slot.

Even if that happens, obviously Apple's going to need something to fill the gap between 15 and 22 inches. Enter the 17- or 18-inch LCD Studio Display that's been shuffled around the rumor mill for at least a year, now; if Apple can ship one of those and keep the price under a grand, then maybe the company can give the CRT its walking papers. (The latest rumor is that the long-fabled 17-inch LCD display will finally debut sometime between next month and Macworld Expo in July.)

Oh, wait-- we're forgetting something. As faithful viewer Paul Kaplan reminds us, what about the CRT inextricably embedded into every iMac that Apple ships? Well, consider the facts and the timing. For one thing, probably for reasons of size, weight, and looks, Apple has steadfastly refused to bump the iMac's 15-inch CRT to a 17-inch model, despite the market seemingly demanding such a move. For another, we know that Mac OS X is going to be preloaded on all Macs this summer, amid much fanfare. Add to that the fact that Apple's entire product line is moving away from curves and colors in favor of straight lines and the "Cube Aesthetic." Now, given the fact that LCD prices are finally plummeting to reasonable levels, isn't it logical that Apple might have a dramatically different LCD-based iMac slated for an Expo roll-out, designed to showcase Mac OS X? We're just guessing, here, folks, but that's how we'd write this script. And if it plays out that way, you can indeed kiss that CRT goodbye-- at least from Apple's product line.

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The above scene was taken from the 5/3/01 episode:

May 3, 2001: Is it almost time to kiss those bulky CRTs goodbye? Meanwhile, Mike Dell grabs the spotlight back by recalling 284,000 laptop batteries, and word has it that the iBook's pristine white enclosure may not look all that great after a bit of everyday handling...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3031: Forget Hellfire; It's Dellfire! (5/3/01)   Here's us, yesterday: "Gee, what's Mike Dell gonna do now that the new iBook (not to mention the sale of 23,000 of them to a single county's worth of schools in Georgia) is stealing his education thunder?"...

  • 3032: Smudges Build Character... (5/3/01)   At first we thought everyone was making too much of the new iBook color choices-- or rather, the lack thereof. ("You can have any color as long as it's white.") For a market that until recently had a choice between a very conservative Graphite, a slightly more colorful Indigo, and a psychotically bright Key Lime, suddenly being limited to white is a bit of a shock, to be sure...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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