Is Apple prepping Retina display MacBooks?

Apple’s slick new iPad boasts an eye-popping Retina display that MacBook owners can only envy from afar – at least for now. 

Fortunately, all of that might change sooner rather than later.

Indeed, an industry source recently told Ars Technica that 2012 may herald the “summer of Retina display Macs.”

According to the source, a new clue spotted within the latest developer release of OS X 10.8 indicates Cupertino is likely prepping a lineup of Retina display enhanced MacBooks for imminent launch.

To be sure, double-sized graphics have popped up in some unexpected places, hinting at a high pixel-density screen future for Apple’s laptops.

One example reportedly comes from Messages, Cupertino’s replacement for iChat. While running the app in the second-dev preview of Mountain Lion, a number of icons erroneously display 2x resolution art. 

Specifically, the “audio chat” icon is a 2x version instead of the standard 1x version.

“I would interpret it to mean that Retina [MacBook] is close; perhaps concurrent with the release of OS X 10.8,” the source told Ars. 

As AppleInsider’s Katie Marsal notes, evidence of Retina display Macs last surfaced in February when Apple debuted OS X 10.7.3 with new high-DPI user interface elements. A number of cursors in the operating system were updated to scale to larger sizes on higher-res screens.

“Apple added HiDPI modes to OS X Lion last year, but they were previously only accessible by installing Xcode. HiDPI is modeled after the UI resolution doubling that Apple does with its Retina display iPhones, the iPod touch and the new iPad,” explained Marsal.

“Support for higher resolution Macs will come with Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors – [which] support up to the 4K resolution, allowing 4,096-by-4,096 pixels per monitor.”