One of the signature features of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iMac computers has been excellent, if not innovative, displays. The panels found on the company's iMacs are sharp, generally well-calibrated, and all-in-all help to deliver a pleasant computing experience.
The majority of the Macs that Apple sells today include integrated displays, but there are some Mac systems -- such as the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro -- that require separate, external displays. Additionally, some users of portable Macs often want to be able to use their systems like desktops, so they often connect their MacBooks to external displays.
Apple has traditionally offered a display under its own branding, known as the Thunderbolt Display, for users looking for an "official" Apple-branded stand-alone monitor. According to iMore, the Thunderbolt Display is no more.
A really poor value in a world of Retina 5K iMacs
The problem with the Thunderbolt Display is that the current (and, apparently, last) model is quite expensive at $999. Expensive isn't a problem if the product delivers value to the consumer, but the issue is that the display simply isn't that compelling.
It's a 2560-by-1440 IPS panel that covers the standard sRGB color gamut. It also sports a built-in FaceTime HD camera. Not a bad display by any means, but this display has been far surpassed by the Retina 5K displays that the company integrates into its current generation 27-inch iMacs.
To put it into perspective, a base 27-inch iMac with a 3.2GHz quad core processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, a 1 terabyte hard drive, discrete graphics card, and a wide-gamut Retina 5K display sells for $1799.
The iMac mentioned above is more powerful than the fastest Mac Mini that Apple sells -- a $999 product -- and it just so happens to come with a much superior display. One might as well just buy the iMac.
For those customers looking for a monitor to pair with the Mac Pro -- Apple's highest-end, professional-oriented system -- there are simply many better third-party options. Some of these offer comparable quality to the Apple Thunderbolt Display for lower prices, while others are superior for the same price.
Apple needed to update it, or just let it go
The vast majority of the Macs that Apple sells today come with built-in displays. The Mac Mini and Mac Pro are niche products. In particular, the Mac Mini is aimed at more cost-conscious buyers, so those systems are very likely to be paired with similarly cheap displays.
The Mac Pro is targeted at professional content creators whose display needs may be well in excess of what the current Thunderbolt Display offers. The needs of these users are probably not identical either.
So Apple had a choice: it could update the Thunderbolt Display and only wind up satisfying a small portion of what is already a very limited total addressable market. Or, it could not bother and let customers choose from the very broad set of capable displays in the marketplace for their needs.
The latter option simply makes much more financial and, ultimately, business sense so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Apple chose to discontinue the Thunderbolt Display.