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Steve Jobs confirms first Macs with LED backlighting due this year

In revealing a timeline to abolish the use of toxic chemicals in Apple products, company chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday confirmed that the first Macs to sport LED-backlit displays will begin turning up later this year.

In an open letter to customers and shareholders on plans for a greener Apple, Jobs revealed the Cupertino-based company plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays when technically and economically feasible.

"We plan to introduce our first Macs with LED backlight technology in 2007," he wrote. "Our ability to completely eliminate fluorescent lamps in all of our displays depends on how fast the LCD industry can transition to LED backlighting for larger displays."

The Apple co-founder's comments offer the hardest form of confirmation to an exclusive AppleInsider report on the company's plans for its next-generation MacBook Pro notebooks.

In January, AppleInsider reported that a revision to Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro due this year would mark the start of a gradual transition away from cold cathode fluorescent backlights (CCFLs) and towards LED backlights for the Mac maker.

At the time, people familiar with the matter said Apple had agreed to implement the LED technology only within a revision to its 15-inch MacBook Pro but was mulling a broader expansion to the 17-inch model and across its 13-inch consumer MacBook line. Jobs' comments on Wednesday suggest the company is accelerating plans for adopting the technology across all of its products.

In addition to being more environmentally friendly than CCFLs, LED technology is more efficient at distributing lighting evenly across the entire display surface and offers an increase in color saturation. It also consumes less power, runs cooler, and lasts longer than CCFLs.

For end users, the new technology translates into improved notebook battery life and displays that will maintain their initial levels of brightness longer into their respective life-cycles. Come this fall, LED-lit displays will also deliver a more vivid canvas for the various software user interface enhancements and animation techniques that will be included with Apple's Mac OS X Leopard operating system overhaul.