Apple settles the amazing multicolor lawsuit

Two photographers claiming that Apple misled them into believing MacBook Pros can display millions of colors settle their case, though little seems to have changed.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
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The heated debate over whether Apple is tricking you into believing you can see millions of colors on your Mac has come to a quiet conclusion.

The Chicago Tribune noted last week (spotted by AppleInsider) that Apple has settled a lawsuit brought by two professional photographers claiming that the company falsely advertised the capabilities of their MacBook Pros as being able to display "millions of colors."

The plaintiffs claimed that Apple could achieve those heights only through "dithering."

How many colors can you see? Thousands? Millions? Apple

There's an option in the Displays screen, under System Preferences in Mac OS X, in which you can set the Colors option to "millions." The thing is, the MacBook Pro uses a 6-bit display, and Apple can get to that "millions" number only by using a technique called dithering, which basically blends pixels together to create a shading effect.

The plaintiffs claimed that this use of dithering affected their ability to edit their photos and constituted false advertising, since a 6-bit display is capable only of rendering 262,144 colors without resorting to dithering, not "millions."

Few others seem to care, however; The Tribune said the plaintiffs' lawyer declined to take the case to the limits "because it was difficult to find other people who were wronged because they had bought Macs solely based on the 'millions of colors' claim." Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

A representative at the San Diego County Superior Court said the case was actually dismissed last year, and so it's not clear why this took so long to come to light. But the outcome is not all that surprising, and I'm left wondering if it took "millions of dollars" for this case to disappear.

Apple has not removed the "millions" option from the display preferences for Mac OS X Leopard.