Following the release of the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display technology, there has been a lot of buzz in the computer world over 4K monitor and notebook developments in 2015. Competitors want to try and take over the trend Apple has started in the AIO PC market (not the TV market however) by developing new 4K units for niche, high-end markets albeit lagging content for streaming 4K movies and shows etc.
4K has been talked about first off mainly in the TV segment as vendors looked to stimulate TV sales as the market was on a decline due to economic downturns and lack of interest in older existing technology. Throughout 2014 vendors started promoting the technology in depth, making it a main focus at CES 2014 and CES 2015, and estimate the technology will increase 10-fold to around 30 million units in 2015.
From the largest of screens in the TV segment the technology then started shifting to smaller applications including monitors and AIO PCs. It became apparent to vendors that they could boost sales amid declining demand for the technology by adding value-added features such as 4K and targeting audiences in the gaming segment. This did not spur LCD monitor sales in 2014 but help them witness less than double-digit declines as previously estimated by many market analysts. Additionally, the vendors reported higher profit margins due to using more advanced technology and hence a larger end-user price tag.
It would only make sense then that notebook vendors would move in the same direction as 4K content develops and as the global notebook market staggers. While most analysts believe 4K content won’t take off until 2016 or 2017 it is like Apple for it to release devices out of anticipation for upcoming technology trends. Apple is a company that likes to set the bar and trends rather than following them.
Heading into 2015 when Apple releases new Mac notebooks consumers could possible see such developments. However, Apple is known for releasing updated versions in March/April of each year and newer versions in the Autumn period so such a product may not come until later 2015.
Supply chains have been quiet about such developments. Sharp announced that it is beginning to produce limited quantities of 4K notebook panels while LG’s 4K TFT LCD production capacity is already short to meet demand for its TV supply as well as Apple’s 5K monitors. In fact, LG has to purchase many of its 4K panels from Taiwan panel makers in order to make up for lacking supply, something of which it doesn’t do with other technologies as it aims to keep everything in house.
So then the question has to be asked-who would supply Apple these new panels? Based off Sharp’s developments the company may not have full access to 4K notebook panel mass production in 2015 and a more likely scenario would indicate 2016 as 4K content and awareness becomes more spread.
Apple needs to secure another panel supplier in order for it to meet all its diverse demand and relying too much on LG will only prove to hurt the company in the future, as can be seen from various product release delays, which came as a result of LG having inadequate panel supply. Hopefully though LG will be able to deliver and help Apple push 4K technology into the market, which would also prompt content developers to move forward as well.
Meanwhile, some vendors will release 4K notebooks in 2015 in order to give them a competitive edge as will some smartphone makers but the supply and amount shipped is expected to be limited.