The Apple Pro Display XDR was launched at the 2019 WWDC alongside the Mac Pro – to great excitement from pro users and pundits alike. Only one issue: the US$5,999 monitor ships without a stand – it takes a whopping US$999 top-up to purchase the proprietary Apple option.
Immediately, at the San Jose keynote and on the live stream broadcast around the world, the dip in excitement at the now-infamous $999 display stand announcement was palpable. Memes about the iPhone X-tier costs involved started circulating, alongside overwhelming media coverage lambasting the notorious tech manufacturer for yet another profit-squeezing motive.
Apple’s USD 999 Pro Display XDR stand has been singled out by media observers and content creators alike as another example of a needless price hike. Some had suggested that had the monitor be listed as USD 6,999, and USD 5,999 without the stand, the furore would have been avoided.
Others pointed out that the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR are clearly pro-tier products – even more pro than the iMac Pro or MacBook Pro. It was meant to compete with US$43,000 reference monitors. This meant that Apple could have been out to squeeze every penny from these enterprise-level purchasers.
They’re all missing the point
Not all of it. USD 999 for a good ol’ monitor stand really is easy fodder for selling headlines. It’s the textbook media story of low-hanging fruit; and everyone knows that low-hanging fruit is sweet, simple but not very interesting.
It’s almost naïve to think that Apple, one of the highest-valued companies in the world, wouldn’t have thought through the politics of pricing their stand at USD 999 beforehand. Here’s where it gets apocryphal, but some of our postulations might be adequate explanations.
Theory 1: The stand is actually worth a thousand bucks
We’re starting with what seems to be the most dubious, but it really might be the most obvious. Apple might have charged a thousand bucks for what seems to be a simple hunk of aluminium because that’s exactly what it’s worth.
The stand on the Pro Display XDR is a key component to its functionality, allowing for tilting, raising/lowering, and rotating movements. That’s simple, but throw in the magnetic quick-release function for easy manoeuvrability, too. There are few monitors out there that allow for such a degree of adjustability while maintaining the ability to remove the monitor before you can mutter “take my money”.
And that’s not all. Apple’s design kinda costs money. Their crack design team consists of the most elite product designers in the entire world. I’d wager this would be a work of art – as much as a lump of aluminium hiding behind your huge monitor can be.
Theory 2: Pros don’t use stands that way
These are Hollywood-tier production facilities we’re talking about. There aren’t many Hollywood-tier producers to go by, so this is largely speculation and hear-say. It goes that many of these editing houses would have multiple stands for multiple editing stations, so it would be prudent to have robust stands that allow for easy monitor interchangeability.
Not just film-makers, but photographers, too. Pro ‘togs tend to want to shoot tethered in a professional environment whether indoors or out, simply because the tiny three-inch display on the back of their thousand-dollar cameras simply don’t allow for adequate colour accuracy and pixel-peeping potential.
Having the ability to pack your super-pro monitor on a demanding shoot and set up in a matter of seconds means photographers and videographers are able to easily move between sets and situations without equipment to bog them down.
Theory 3: It doesn’t matter, silly.
Sure, the stand costs a thousand bucks. Do you know what doesn’t cost a thousand bucks? The VESA mount. At USD 199 for a bracket and four screws, it’s not the cheapest, but together with a compatible arm, it might stay south of USD 250.
The easy-detach mechanism seems to be the main culprit here, since equivalent four-bolt VESA adapters for equivalently-sized screens cost southwards of USD 50. In the WWDC 2019 keynote, the display is shown to easily slide off the stand.