Will Apple Eyefinity?

January 20, 2010

By William P. Meyers
Note: I own AMD, but not AAPL, NVDA or INTC

For a technology industry person, I am not much on gadgets. I've played with an iPhone and it just made me want a bigger screen. If I shell out cash, it tends to be for better business functionality. I am not a traveling salesman. I work out of my home office. So I do like big, affordable screens. Currently I have a two-screen set up, both Acer screens, one 17", one 19". My graphics card is an ATI Radeon X1200, which a gamer would scoff at, but which is fine for business applications.

Apple (www.apple.com) has been mainly about mobile trends for over a decade now. After blowing much of their consumer loyalty back in the late 1980's, they regained some of it with their portable computers, or notebooks, during the 1990's. Apple became important in the pocket-sized mobile space with the iPod introduction in 2001. Then, a couple of years ago, they took on the cell phone market with the iPhone. With their high-margin model, they have made a very successful business.

Their desktop computers, however, have continued to have low market share, if not as bad of a share as they had five years ago. The Steve Jobs magic spell just has not worked out very well there so far. The last time I had a moment of Apple computer envy was way back in the decade when a friend was working on an Apple desktop with a nice big screen. It made me want a Windows computer with just as big of a screen.

So what do I want, when my business capital budget can afford it? What I really want is an Eyefinity display.

An Eyefinity display consists of one of the newest AMD/ATI graphics cards and as many as six screens. Basically, absorbing your whole visual field. The technology is in its early days, and can only get better. I expect by the holidays of 2010 you will be able to buy integrated computer systems, with graphic cards and screens, at major retailers. Also, it is not a system you want to add to a single-core processor system, or even a dual-core system. It is a good reason to upgrade to quad-core. (I'm still at dual core, myself, using Windows Vista).

Unless Apple has decided to leave the desktop space to wilt on the vine, I can't imaging that Apple won't respond to Eyefinity. The sanest response would be to simply add Eyefinity to a Mac. Since the secret is the graphics card, Eyefinity can be added to Intel processor based systems. Right now Apple uses Intel processors with NVIDIA graphics. And certainly NVIDIA will eventually have a response to Eyefinity. So maybe Apple will just wait for that. I don't see Apple coming up with its own proprietary competitor. The choices seem to be do it AMD's way or do it NVIDIA's way.

Samsung and AMD demonstrated both three and six panel Eyefinity displays at CES earlier this month, with suggested prices of $1,899 and $3,099 for the displays. Eyefinity capable graphics cards currently include the 5970, 5870, 5850, 5770 and 5750, at a wide range of price points and capabilities. There is also a validation program to help consumers identify products that are Eyefinity compatible.

More: AMD's Eyefinity page

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Copyright 2009 William P. Meyers