The 4K Revolution May Have Finally Arrived. Will Apple Get In on It?

Yesterday was Dell's day to brag. The company announced competitive 4K displays and plans to unveil "the most affordable Ultra HD monitor in the industry" in early 2014. Might Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) soon steal the 4K spotlight by launching its own display?

4K is here to stay
4K isn't new. Sony claims to have "ignited the 4K revolution in 2001 with the very first commercial 4K digital projectors used in movie theaters around the world," according to the company's website. From there, Sony has mostly paved the way for 4K, offering a full suite of solutions, including cameras and monitors.

Prices for Sony's Ultra HD TVs begin at $3,000 for a 55-inch version. Though the price tag is unreasonable for most consumers, it's low enough to tease the inevitable affordability of Ultra HD displays. And now, with new displays from Dell and a bold promise for the future, affordability has arrived.

Dell UltraSharp 24 Monitor. Source: Dell.

Priced at $1,399, Dell's new 24-inch display boasts typical Ultra HD specs. With a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, Dell's new display will deliver impressive detail. That's 8 million pixels, compared to about 2 million pixels for a typical HDTV. More important, however, Dell has promised to deliver a 28-inch 4K display in early 2014 for under $1,000. The company lists video editors, CGI animators, game developers, and "consumers seeking incredible onscreen clarity for entertainment applications" as a potential customers for the new display.

Dell's vice president and general manager of displays and client peripherals was spot on, saying "We are excited to announce [...] monitors in sizes and price points that will be compelling to customers seeking higher resolution." Getting below $1,000 marks an important breakthrough in price points for 4K displays.

Apple's new Mac Pro. Source: Apple.

Will Apple get in on the 4K revolution?
Though the 4K revolution may finally be garnering some momentum on the heels of Dell's more affordable Ultra HD displays, not every computer is capable of powering a 4K display yet. One computer by Apple, however, is very well equipped: The new, radically redesigned Mac Pro. Apple boasted during the company's September iPhone event that the new computer can simultaneously support up to three 4K displays. 

The comment has reinvigorated rumors that Apple could be planning to launch its own 4K display -- or even its own Ultra HD television. Apple analyst Masahiko Ishino of Advanced Research Japan went as far as to predict that Apple will launch 55- and 65-inch 4K televisions by late next year. When Bloomberg asked Ishino for details, Ishino declined to reveal his sources, but he said that the displays will have a frameless design and prices will range from $1,500 to $2,000.

And now Dell's new 4K monitors are adding fuel to the rumors that Apple is at least working on some form of 4K display. As MacRumors Eric Slivka wrote, "Dell's displays may be the strongest hint yet that Apple may have something in the works given the two companies have typically used the same panel suppliers for their displays."

It's definitely likely Apple will get into the 4K business. But the uncertainties are still overwhelming. Will Apple market the display as an upgrade to its Thunderbolt Display? Or is Apple aiming for a broader market by designing next-generation competition to HDTV LCDs? Or both? Whatever Apple does, Dell's announcement is clear evidence that the 4K revolution is ramping up and may soon be in full swing. Will Apple jump in with its own design?

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