Jobs 'greener' memo points to laptops with LEDs

Steve Jobs reveals details about new Mac hardware

To rebut environmental critics, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs Thursday not only had to spell out the company's recycling plans but also spill a few details about new Mac hardware slated for release later this year.

In his open letter, Jobs revealed that Apple will start substituting light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for the fluorescent lamps now used to backlight Macs' flat-panel displays, effectively confirming rumors that first surfaced in January.

By turning to LEDs, Apple can eliminate the mercury used in fluorescent lighting. "We plan to introduce our first Macs with LED backlight technology in 2007," Jobs said in his letter.

Some caveats apply, however. Jobs said that a complete shift to LEDs would depend on how fast the LCD industry transitions to LED backlighting for larger displays. Apple will move to LED backlighting for all displays, he added, "when technically and economically feasible." His emphasis on the difficulties of backlighting larger displays gives credence to rumors earlier this year that Apple would first use LEDs in a revision of its 15-in. MacBook Pro. Only the 13-in. LCD on the lower-priced MacBook is smaller.

According to Cree, a manufacturer of LED backlighting, the technology reduces power consumption by 12 percent from a traditional fluorescent tube. Other benefits include a more even distribution of light and truer colors.

Apple won't be the first laptop maker to swap LEDs for fluorescents; Sony uses the technology in its top-of-the-line Vaio TX series, which features an ultra-thin 11.1-in. display.

Although Jobs confirmed the switch to LEDs -- as well as at least one revamped system this year -- he omitted any information about pricing or delivery dates. The company, however, typically rolls out new or redesigned hardware in time for its crucial back-to-school selling season, which runs from late July through early September.

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