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Apple passes on “toxic” Quantum Dot displays, reaffirms Mac as “different on purpose” from iPad


As an aside to today’s release of new Retina iMacs, Apple granted an atypically personnel-driven set of interviews to Steven Levy of Backchannel. Levy spoke with Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and several members of the company’s Input Design Lab, notably discussing several topics of interest to Mac and iPad users:

  • Although it continues to seek improved screen performance, Apple considered and passed on using Quantum Dot screen technology, which some have called a natural successor to the IPS LED screens found in most Apple products. According to Levy, “Apple rejected [Quantum Dot] because it required cadmium, a toxic element,” but developed an LED alternative “that got [Apple] everything [it] wanted without the environmental downside.”
  • Apple is continuing to define a space for Macs, particularly desktop computers, in an increasingly phone- and tablet-dominated world. Pointing out that Tim Cook last month called the iPad “the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing,” Levy asked Schiller why desktop Macs should continue to exist. According to Schiller, the desktop’s “job is to challenge what we think a computer can do and do things that no computer has ever done before, be more and more powerful and capable so that we need a desktop because of its capabilities. Because if all it’s doing is competing with the notebook and being thinner and lighter, then it doesn’t need to be.” Big-canvased Retina iMacs achieve that, the article suggests.
  • Schiller reaffirmed Apple’s previously-stated position that OS X and iOS are not being merged together, despite increasing similarities between the two operating systems. “iOS from its start has been designed as a multi-touch experience… Mac OS has been designed from day one for an indirect pointing mechanism. These two worlds are different on purpose, and that’s a good thing — we can optimize around the best experience for each and not try to mesh them together into a least-common-denominator experience.”
  • Acknowledging Microsoft’s announcement of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices last week, Schiller suggested that Microsoft’s push into hardware has confirmed Apple’s longstanding hardware and software development approach as correct. “It’s amazing that one event validated so much of what Apple does, and held us up as the gold standard. And that’s flattering.”

The full article, discussing the new P3 Retina displays and Magic accessory details such as the runners on the bottom of the Magic Mouse 2, is available here.

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  1. Grayson Mixon - 7 years ago

    No one has successfully combined mobile and desktop systems. Microsoft almost tanked the company trying.

    However, I think Apple could figure out a way to make it work. They could have different interface modes for desktop and mobile, and different app displays (an extension of auto-layout) for touch versus mouse.

    It could work. It would just rest on app developers to properly support both modes. A case in point would be apps that already support completely different layouts on iPhone and iPad to take advantage of the bigger screen.

    You don’t need a touch interface to converge iOS and OS X. There is a phone, tablet, watch, and TV version of iOS, with different input methods on the watch and TV. tvOS is a version of iOS designed for a trackpad. There could be a version of iOS designed for a mouse without touch input.

    The goal of convergence should be universal apps that run on any of the Apple devices, bringing the huge iOS app library to the desktop, not just bringing a touchscreen to the Mac.

    • Grayson Mixon - 7 years ago

      The other goal of course would be to bring powerful desktop apps to the iPad, which has as much power as a desktop already.

      • I like your optimism, however, there are things that mice can do that fingers can not do, currently. For example, you can’t ‘hover’ over an item with your finger, yet.

      • Grayson Mixon - 7 years ago

        True enough. On desktop, you have left click, right click, and hover. On a touch screen, you have a tap, long press, and force press. So, it is possible to have some sort of translation.

      • mikhailt - 7 years ago

        @Tyler, Apple is replacing hover with Pop and Peek alas 3D Touch on iOS and Force Touch on OS X. There’s also the Apple Pencil that can work to hover as needed but 3D Touch will be more intuitive.

      • bb1111116 - 7 years ago

        by mikhailt; “Apple is replacing hover with Pop and Peek alas 3D Touch on iOS and Force Touch on OS X. ”

        Agreed. When I heard about 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S, I thought this is bringing a ‘right click’ type of feature to iOS.

    • mikhailt - 7 years ago

      Apple is already doing this, they are simply not going all the way in at the same time. Apple is an iterative company, they do things in phases and work out what needs to be done to enable the next phase.

      Take a look at iOS 9 on iPad with Split View and see how it compares with El Capitan with Split View, they’re working on getting iOS to be as powerful (not identical) as OS X as iPads continue to get more powerful. Spotlight is now basically becoming Finder with the universal search support for all apps. iCloud Drive app to manage your files and so on. on OS X is using some private UI frameworks that is identical to the iOS.

      Not to mention, iOS is just a fork of OS X with Cocoa Touch APIs on top, just like tvOS is a fork of OS X with TV APIs on top, watchOS and so on. These are all the same OS with different interfaces.

      What Apple needs to do is provide better tooling to allow developers to build one app for multiple platforms.

  2. Alex Narayan - 7 years ago

    I would buy the iPad Pro in an instant if it ran full OS X, basically I was hoping apple would release a Surface but they didn’t.

    • rogifan - 7 years ago

      OS X wasn’t designed for multi touch. It was designed for mouse/keyboard. Plus it’s Intel not ARM. I seriously hope you don’t want Apple to build an Intel tablet.

  3. Lucas Mariani - 7 years ago

    What does P3 mean?

  4. John Arack - 7 years ago

    Cadmium Free Heat Resistant QDX ™ Quantum Dots Exist Quantum Materials has signed a funded product development agreement with Nitto Denko.

  5. modeyabsolom - 7 years ago

    Interesting article. I didn’t know Quantum Dot technology was toxic!

  6. Phil Schiller says: “iOS from its start has been designed as a multi-touch experience… Mac OS has been designed from day one for an indirect pointing mechanism.”

    Well, not exactly. Wayne Westerman’s version of multi-touch, the basis for Apple’s, was ingeniously system-agnostic by having all its smarts on the input device, and communicating with the host system as if it were a “dumb” keyboard and mouse. FingerWorks’ snap-in replacement keyboard for the Titanium PowerBook was what caught Steve Jobs’ attention and led to Apple’s buying the technology. When Jobs introduced the iPhone, he made a point of it being based on OS X (to an appreciative murmur from his audience of developers). It was several iterations of the iPhone later that Apple started talking about, first, iPhoneOS and, soon after, iOS. Presumably the name changes were just that, and not an entirely new code base.

    No doubt Schiller is accurately stating Apple’s current intentions as they apply to both marketing and engineering. He seems a bit fuzzy, though, on what was the actual “start” of iOS.