Sunday, June 20, 2010

A print-resolution color display...for $199.

It's been pretty much a done deal that I was going to upgrade to the newest iPhone when it was released this summer.  I decided not to bite on the 3GS when it launched last year, thinking it wasn't really a major improvement and wanting to wait to see how the whole carrier issue/AT&T coverage problem would work through.  I use my iPhone as my one and only phone for office and personal.  I get five bars of 3G at my home/office in Seattle so I have no big complaints with the coverage I'm getting.  So committing to AT&T for another two years is no big deal, especially given my use.  If something better comes up in the next 24 months I can justify any penalties I would have to pay by the importance of the device to my daily life.

I was one of those folks watching the Tweets from the WWDC when iPhone4 was announced.  Not many surprises but the changes that we're already known were confirmed and none is more exciting in my mind than the new Retina display.

This updated display--"print resolution" as Jobs called it--reminded me of a meeting I had with Gary Starkweather at Microsoft Research in the late 90's.  Gary literally invented the laser printer when he was at Xerox in 1969 and then invented the color management technology that became ColorSync in the early 90's. As one of the early Apple guys,  he was key in developing a piece of the company that you don't hear much about anymore but was game-changing nonetheless, the Apple LaserWriter.  It was one of the first laser printers available to the mass market and was a vital component at the advent of desktop publishing. Companies like mine--and me personally--owe a great deal to pioneers like Gary (along with the folks at Aldus) who made companies like Blurb possible.

Gary had called me to come over to Research in Redmond to see his new toy--a monitor he was working on with IBM that could display at 300dpi, or print resolution.  I was running Corbis' Global Imaging Operations at the time, and we were always looking for ways to improve the quality of our digital images at the retouching stage, and this display was certainly a game changer. I remember thinking it was just like reading a book, the quality was so good. As far as I know that device never materialized as a product but the writing was definitely on the wall. Displays were going to continue to improve and, as always, continue to reduce in price.

So as I wait for this Thursday when my new iPhone4 will be shipped, I'm thinking about Gary and the contributions he made to the enjoyment I know I'll have with my new device.

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