With all the hoopla over high-resolution "Retina" mobile displays lately, get ready to start seeing such high-caliber displays coming to a PC or Mac near you soon.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has them in the works, evidenced by Retina-quality images found buried within recent versions of Mac OS X. There's even a chance the upcoming MacBook Pros will feature them. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is already building in high-resolution support into the next major upgrade of its flagship operating system, Windows 8 -- which will be ready for pixel densities sharper than the new iPad.
Well, behind the software scenes, there needs to be the hardware processing power to drive all those pixels. On the mobile front, Apple uses its new A5X chip that features a quad-core GPU to accomplish this. On the traditional PC/Mac side, that's where Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) is coming in.
Chip King Kong's newest Ivy Bridge architecture is built to support Retina displays (the previous generation Sandy Bridge technically supported them, too), with Intel exec Kirk Skaugen even specifically using Apple's "Retina" marketing term. Ivy Bridge chips will kick up the integrated graphics performance to support high-resolution displays without the assistance of a discrete GPU from the likes of NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) or Advanced Micro Devices.
Although NVIDIA keeps brushing off the threat of integrated graphics, even as its rumored design win in this year's Macs might involve only high-end models. In fairness, this is due to supply and manufacturing constraints.
The chipmaker sees PCs with Retina displays as early as 2013, provided that hardware OEMs opt to use them. Macs are expected to potentially start making the shift this year, alongside a transition to Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors.
I'd expect Intel to soon start including Retina specifications in its Ultrabook reference designs that it's pushing to defend itself from the rise of tablets.
With Apple, Microsoft, and Intel on the Retina train, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that this is where the market is heading.
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