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Monday, March 31, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Apple hit with another "millions of colors" lawsuit

Just days after settling a lawsuit in which it was charged with misrepresenting the quality of its notebook screens, Apple Inc. has been hit with a second class-action suit rife with similar allegations over one of its iMac displays.

According to the new suit, filed in a San Jose court Monday by Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP, Apple is deceiving consumers by concealing that its new 20-inch iMac monitors are inferior to the previous generation’s and those of the new 24-inch iMac.

Specifically, the firm takes issue with a marketing claim from the Mac maker that both the 20-inch and 24-inch iMac are capable of displaying “millions of colors at all resolutions." While this claim holds true for the current 24-inch model and previous generation 20-inch model — both of which display 16,777,216 colors on 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens — the new 20-inch iMac display is said to be capable of 98 percent fewer colors (262,144).

"Apple is duping its customers into thinking they’re buying 'new and improved' when in fact they’re getting stuck with 'new and inferior,'" Brian Kabateck, Managing Partner of KBK, said in a statement.  "Beneath Apple’s 'good guy' image is a corporation that takes advantage of its customers. Our goal is to help those customers who were deceived and make sure Apple tells the truth in the future."

While Apple describes the display of both the 24-inch and 20-inch iMacs as though they were interchangeable, KBK asserts that the monitors in each of the desktop systems are of radically different technology.

The new 20-inch iMac features a 6-bit twisted nematic film (TN) LCD screen, which the firm claims is the "least expensive of its type," sporting a narrower viewing angle than the display of the 24-inch model, less color depth, less color accuracy and greater susceptibility to washout.

Apple on its website says: "No matter what you like to do on your computer — watch movies, edit photos, play games, even just view a screen saver — it’s going to look stunning on an iMac."

However, KBK argues that the inferior technology in the 20-inch iMac is "particularly ill-suited [for] editing photographs" due to its limited color potential and the distorting effect of its color simulation processes.

"Apple is squeezing more profits for itself by using cheap screens and its customers are unwittingly paying the price," Kabateck said.

Apple last week agreed to a settlement in a similar class-action lawsuit brought on by two professional photographers, which charged that the company's Intel-based notebooks were only suited to display the "illusion of millions of colors through the use of a software technique referred to as 'dithering,' which causes nearby pixels on the display to use slightly varying shades of colors that trick the human eye into perceiving the desired color even though it is not truly that color."

The terms of that settlement were not made public.