Are More Retina Macs Coming Sooner Than You Think?

There was little to no doubt that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) was going to bring its Retina display to the Mac sooner rather than later, continuing a trend it began with its mobile devices. It was only a question of when.

The Mac maker answered that question this week at its Worldwide Developers Conference, unveiling a redesigned MacBook Pro sporting an unprecedented high-resolution display, among other things. The next question is when Apple will give the rest of its Mac lineup the same Retina treatment.

Reply all
CEO Tim Cook has effectively confirmed in a customer email that Apple has a new Mac Pro in the pipeline for next year, saying, "don't worry as we're working on something really great for later next year." Cook is taking on his predecessor's habit of replying directly to select customer emails. Mac desktops look like they're set to get some love next year.

A Retina iMac will be a tall order to fill technically, since a 21.5-inch and 27-inch Retina display would be much harder to manufacture than the smaller ones we see today and would carry absurd pixel counts if Apple sticks with its habit of doubling dimensions.

Rumor has it
According to a new research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros are in the cards for later this year, specifically around October in time for the holiday shopping season. Credit where it's due: Kuo is also the analyst who predicted as early as April that Apple would kill off the ginormous 17-inch MacBook Pro and more recently that the new Retina model would be introduced alongside existing MacBook Pros, effectively creating a third family.

He nailed both of these predictions spot-on, even though the new family technically kept the same MacBook Pro branding. Kuo was also accurate when his checks showed that Apple was about to discontinue its long-standing white polycarbonate MacBook last year. I think Kuo has earned his iStripes by now.

Kuo believes that Apple had planned on unveiling the 13-inch Retina model this week, but low yields and manufacturing hurdles prevented Cupertino from showing off a twofer. He estimates that Apple launched the 15-inch version with a "moderate" quantity of about 300,000 units. Even now, shipping times for those models span up to three to four weeks for new buyers.

They're out there
In a separate report, NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim recently mentioned that both 13-inch and 15-inch Retina panels are already floating around out there in the supply chain, carrying price premiums of $65 and $92, respectively. A 13-inch Retina display would carry a resolution of 2560 x 1600, more pixels than even the current 27-inch iMac sports today. I had wondered, "Are Apple's new Retina Macs going to cost you?"

Yes. Yes, they will. The new models carry a $400 premium compared with their non-Retina brethren, but there are a few other things you get for that markup, most notably the pricey upgrade to all solid-state storage and the redesigned form factor. The thing is chock-full of custom designed ingredients, so it's not surprising that it will cost more.

Apple's margins will be just fine.

All that and a bag of chips
NVIDIA
(Nasdaq: NVDA  ) indeed won the discrete GPU spot in all of the new 15-inch models with its new 28-nanometer Kepler chips, but don't expect that win to carry over to the smaller brother, which has always used Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC  ) integrated graphics.

Not to worry, though: Chipzilla's newest Ivy Bridge processors that are already featured in the lineup are currently Retina-ready, so it should have no problem serving up all those pixels.

There's an important question on the mind of every current and prospective Apple shareholder: Should I buy or sell Apple today? Considering Apple's massive run, it's a natural question to ask, and we have the answer. Meanwhile, there's another new revolution in manufacturing that's also likely to affect how Apple's products get made. This free video report will tell you all about it.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel, Apple, and NVIDIA, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and writing puts on NVIDIA. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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