Leaving money on the table: Apple’s missing Thunderbolt 4K display

“As promised, the Mac Pro appeared on Apple’s online store Thursday morning, starting at $2,999,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune.

“But as it turns out, it’s neither a Christmas miracle nor a windfall for Dell,” P.E.D. reports. “If you order a MacPro today, shipping isn’t guaranteed before Dec. 30 — way too late for Santa — and, dude, the 4K monitor offered for sale on the site is Sharp’s, not Dell’s.”

P.E.D. writes, “Why isn’t Apple making the monitor? [Here are] three theories…”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. I’m guessing the Mac Pro is on its last legs and will soon follow the Xserve and Mac Cube into oblivion. No one other than Apple uses Thunderbolt connectors and this fact by itself will severely restrict TB peripherals. Apple looked at the TB market and said heck there’s no demand for TB monitors so let’s not bother making one.

    And the lack of internal expansion and lack of component upgradeability of the Mac Pro will restrict its market even further. There’s no getting around the fact that Mac Pros will sell in very, very low numbers, as few as 10,000 units per quarter.

    There’s simply no demand.

    1. You couldn’t be more wrong. Mine’s already ordered (BTO ship sometime in January). You and many other commenters completely miss the point of how expandable this system is. You’re no longer constrained by the number of card slots or the number of disk bays. By using daisy-chaining, you can attach as many as 18 Thunderbolt devices (disks, networks, Firewire, USB, expansion chassis, etc). And there’s high-end support for high-end monitors. So Apple’s not making a 4K TB monitor yet. Big whoop. Most users would prefer another non-glare monitor anyway. Display port plugs right in.

      So you don’t like the fact the expansion is external. I (a high-end developer and user) didn’t like the fact that my trusty old cheese-grater was maxed out. No more bays. Sure, there’s a cost of entry to the Thunderbolt world (already crossed that bridge with my Mini), but once you’ve got your system laid out, upgrading computers is a simple matter of replacing one 9-inch cylinder with another.

      The true power of this system will start appear when CPU farms are hooked up by Thunderbolt. Whether for film mixing or render farms, you’ll only have to buy one set of external drives. Then start interconnecting as many Mac Pros as you need. I’d bet on it. I HAVE bet on it.

      It will take a while for this new type of interconnected system to be built. But I can assure you this new Pro will be a game-changer in ways you can’t imagine.

      1. Your anecdotal “Well, I bought one” does nothing to counter Jovial Janitor’s prediction that Mac Pros won’t sell much. The fact is that, after three years, Thunderbolt has barely gotten out of the gate.
        Firewire had limited acceptance in the computer world; Thunerbolt makes Firewire look like the ubiquitous USB.
        Who is going to daisy chain 18 Thunderbolt devices when each and every one is far overpriced when compared to its conventional counterpart? You would be hard pressed to even find 18 Thunderbolt devices because it is so poorly supported.
        Remember the old Apple Display Connector (ADC)? That was cool. It combined video, USB, and power all within one cable for elegant connections to monitors. It would have been great if the whole industry had adopted that standard. But they didn’t. And it went the way of the dinosaur. That is how things are looking with Thunderbolt.
        There is no denying Thunderbolt is good technology with potential but, sadly, that isn’t enough. If it doesn’t have broad acceptance, manufactures won’t build with it. If manufacturers won’t build with it, the price won’t come down. If the price won’t come down, more people won’t use it. It’s a vicious circle.
        Apple took a leap of faith with Thunderbolt. The Mac Pro’s future is inexorably attached to the future of Thunderbolt and, right now, that doesn’t look good.

        1. Many pros are not impressed with the new design — the total reliance on Thunderbolt is almost as controversial as the hideousness of the iOS7 interface.

          Thunderbolt can never be faster than internal direction PCIe connection. I predict that pent-up demand will surge sales for a little while, but after the initial wave, the drawbacks of zero customer internal expansion and upgreadeability will kill off the Cylinder just as it did the Cube.

          … any there is still a gaping hole in the Mac product range for a mid-range internally expandible tower slotted between the iMac and the Pro.

          Cook has not shown that he understands nor cares about professional, enterprise, or educational workstation needs.

    2. If Apple had created a useful update for the Mac Pro I would have updated mine (4,1). I would gladly buy a Mac Pro with internal storage and expansion slots, but Ive has decided he wants style over substance.

      I do not want a sea of overpriced cables all over the place nor do I want wall warts everywhere. The Black Trashcan- aka Mac Mini Pro HTPC is a nice computer, but is not a replacement for a Mac Pro tower.

      As to it’s profitability, many companies sell loss leaders and Apple can afford to support the high end market.

      1. Really. So only Ive decided what the direction would be for the new Mac Pro. Tim Cook and Phil Schiller had no say, nor anyone in hardware or software engineering. Or not even Steve Jobs (assuming this product has been in here pipeline for a while). Decision made by Ive and Ive alone who only cares about form, not function.

        Wow didn’t know one person had so much power at Apple.

      1. Janitor made a reasonable observation. You made a personal attack because you don’t agree — quite a juvenile response.

        I long for the days when mothers would teach their kids to keep their mouths shut when one has nothing to add to the conversation.

      2. Janitor is spot on. Not only that but apple needs to upgrade the
        year-old specs already. This Mac Pro is not needed in a broadcast facility. Totally niche. That’s a lot of bank to drop on one part of a rig.

    3. So – I’m guessing your…. What 15? Mac Pro last legs. Seriously? Been to a medical research facility? A university? A design agency? Not everyone plays games all day.

      Xserve / cube = Mac mini… Pretty popular in ways you probobly have no idea about.. A device that can simply plug into an enterprise, allow for device management for less than the price of the redundant power supply option on your hp or dell POS is pretty amazing.

      Apple already controls the enterprise with the iPhone and iPad. Maybe not in the basement where you live, but the enterprise as in the hands of the CEO, COO, CFO and any other aycronym you can think of.

      Game Over? I think not…

    4. Thanks for the laugh of the day Jovial Janitor. “No demand my ass!” As Phil Schiller would say. Do you want your humiliation crow now or wait until you get home? Love your timing, you don’t bother to wait to be being proven utterly wrong – you gotta get your disingenuous idiocy in first!!

      Get back to the only thing you’re good at – cleaning toilets.

  2. A monitor’s quality and value is basically determined by the panel. Apple don’t make them so essentially they’ll be offering what pretty much anyone else could. It may look nicer, it may have better connectivity, but ultimately it will display images at qualities increasing as you spend more.

    I bought a mac mini for my office and a basic dell monitor to go with it on a deal. An apple one would have looked nicer, but for work, in an office environment the cost wouldn’t be justified for what I’d get out of it whereas the Mac hardware does.

    They may get into it, but with margins being what they are it’s not as if they’re missing out on some huge stream of revenue.

  3. The new connection of choice for high-end monitors is DisplayPort. Thunderbolt, which uses a Minidisplayport connector, supposedly connects to any Displayport 1.2-compatible display.

    Most high-end displays are shipping with Minidisplayport-Displayport cables, and many of the displays support Thunderbolt-style daisy chaining. In other words, one monitor can pass a Displayport 1.2 signal from a Thunderbolt/Displayport-equipped computer to second monitor. A good cable can be bought for < $20 US, and a dicey cable can be gotten for about ~$6.

    The big thing about Thunderbolt is it doubles as a Displayport 1.2 cable and a PCI connector. And if Intel can relax fees and other requirements, the technology should catch on.

    1. Yes and no. Most high-end monitors offer DVI and/or Displayport. They offer essentially the same digital signal with a different physical connector.

      Apple shows how little it understands the Pro market by sticking on an HDMI port onto the Mac Pro. That is the most #$%^&* stupid connector ever. A pro almost NEVER wants to send his audio signals to the same place as his video.

      Apple’s current Thunderbolt monitor is primarily intended to enable the monitor to act as the dock for MacBooks. But the Thunderbolt display offers zero advantage to an always-connected workstation. Pros prefer to send data directly to external drives rather than routing it through the monitor, and the monitor that pros use is almost always a color-corrected matte screen …. something else that Apple #$*%ed up on a lot of its machines.

  4. Actually (per the article) it is completely like Apple to leave money on the table.

    But the real reason there isn’t a 4K Apple monitor is that they don’t have a) the facility in which to produce it, and b) the ability to have someone else produce it with the necessary margins for it to be worth their while. The Apple Thunderbolt display filled a niche that no one else could at that time (ie., a Thunderbolt display with adequate port expansion for the mini and laptop lines), and also helped make Thunderbolt a more compelling value proposition while the accessory market got wound up. But even then, Apple priced it as a premium product.

    Appple won’t put out a 4K display unless they have a way of making it crazy better than the rest, and that doesn’t exist yet.

        1. What innovation is Apple going to offer that isn’t already offered right now by other companies? Tell me.

          All I’ve ever ‘verboten’ around here are ignorant and troll remarks. Meanwhile, who is a more objective critic of Apple than myself? And a dozen other people I could point out. IOW: Don’t be ignorant. It’s verboten.

  5. There is demand for the Mac Pro but not at the level of the consumer Macs. If Apple sell 50K units per quarter that would be considered a success.
    Maxing out the MP is still under $10K which is good news. I would guess the average selling price will be around $5K so quarterly revenue will be around $250M.
    Margins will depend on component costs. Who knows what Apple get for pricing for the CPU, GPU and SSD in those volumes but I bet it is good.
    The display market is not worth investing heavily into. Sure the Apple displays look great but the additional cost for no additional screen quality will not make sense to most users. Apple will not make much money out of 4K displays because the volume and margin are not there to warrant the development.
    It’s taken a long time for this to finally be available. It’s like the Cube G4 has grown up and being taking steroids.

  6. They’re leaving money on the table by not updating their current 27″ display to Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3. i won’t invest in the updated Mac Pro if the only display offered by Apple to go along with it is stuffed with outdated USB 2, Thunderbolt 1 and FW800.

      1. as a photo compositor and retoucher, i clearly am the target market for the Mac Pro. but then my comment was about the display… the Apple Thunderbolt Display is lacking the high-end connectivity of every currently shipping mac product. i don’t need 4K, but again, why would i drop $1000 for an obsolete display to go along with a state of the art Mac Pro?

        1. Then I misunderstood you. It seemed you said you wouldn’t invest in a Mac Pro, and I didn’t see why the choice of a display would influence that decision, if that were the computer you needed (especially knowing that you could save quite a bit of money buying a display from someone besides Apple).

          As to Apple offering an updated display, perhaps they’re still trying to make up the return on investment from developing the current version, especially since it doesn’t seem to sell all that many units.

  7. I’m going to say it: The lack of a 4k (or any pro grade) monitor by Apple is a very clear sign of the complete absence of sincerity on Apple’s part. (I have yet to see a current 27″ display on any pro’s desk….)
    Back when Apple actually gave a rip about pros the magnificent Apple 30″ monitor was a status symbol, a product I personally aspired to own and one that I drooled over in many a photo shoot situation.
    –Incidentally, any and all speculation on the sales success or otherwise in online forums will be just that – speculation. Apple does not break out sales by product.–
    I predict:
    The New Mac Pro will sell just fine initially, Apple will make a few updates -a year from now- but will otherwise lose interest and let the thing languish as they have historically done with every other pro product in the last decade. They will not produce a 4k monitor or promote Thunderbolt in any way, leaving that to die like FW800.
    3 years from now everyone will be back to square one, asking each other why Apple doesn’t care about the pro.

  8. You’d think they would at LEAST update the input specs on the Displays. I have a Retina laptop and would buy the monitor if it had USB 3.0 inputs. Why would I pay for an expensive monitor that is still touting USB 2.0 as a selling point?

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