At the March Apple announcement, Apple has shown a new laptop with a new type of USB connector. What is this, how is it different, and what does it mean for computing?
This morning during Apple’s “Spring Forward” event, Apple announced details of its Watch, and as we suspected, a laptop, too. Not just one, mind you, but several.
We saw the MacBook Air get refreshed to Intel’s fifth-generation of chips, and we saw the same treatment applied to the MacBook Pro with Retina, so yay there.
A third laptop was also announced, and it was one that we said could make an appearance at the event: a new style of ultra-thin Apple laptop that would be thinner than the Air and feature a Retina display and a thinner USB plug.
No Air, no Pro, no extra thickness or weight or nothing. Just “MacBook”, like the old machines were one called.
Yes, the original “MacBook” name once reserved for Apple’s entry-level computer has returned, and this time it’s made for people keen to spend on something new and different, with a machine that is lighter and thinner than the Air, and even comes in colours that matches the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Gold. Silver. Space grey. Ooo.
Inside is a new keyboard mechanism, a new high resolution “Retina” display, and a battery capable of delivering up to 10 hours of movie playback.
But as cool as this is, we’re more intrigued by the inclusion of a new style of port, or rather, as many will see it, the exclusion of the ports people expect, with USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt, and Mini DisplayPort missing in action.
You see in this machine, Apple has included two ports and only two ports: the 3.5mm headset jack we all can’t live without — you know, for headphones and speakers — and a new flatter Type-C USB connection.
“Type-C?” I hear you saying. “What is Type-C?”
From the name, you can probably guess that this is a new type of USB connector, with “Type A” being the flat style we’re all so used to seeing on USB keys and cables and”Type B” existing as that larger and more square-like USB port used in printers and with USB 3.0 port replicators. “Type C” is a different port again, but still compatible with USB.
On the PC side of things, the thickness of ports like the USB and HDMI port will likely hold us back a little, and essentially mean the thickness can really only drop to a little bit thicker than what these ports allow.
Some computers have tried to get around this by shifting to microUSB and high-speed microUSB, with the thinner ports executing to thicker ports with an “on-the-go” adaptor, but Apple’s shift to total USB-C takes this a step further.
And it’s necessary simply because at one point, we will want our laptops to be thinner than what they are. That quest we have — the strive for something light and simple, for something that unburdens us of weight and allows us to do our work without thinking about carrying something large — this is something all computer makers are attempting to achieve in some form or another.
Are we there yet?
Probably not, and many people will simply view this as part of the “too soon” category, and pick up a different computer instead, say the MacBook Pro with Retina, or one of the plenty of other decent PC laptops out there that are very, very thin and light, and still include the ports they depend on.
But for others living in the future and ready to early adopt, this price to pay for ultimate thinness will probably be no problem, even though with those people, we expect there will be a couple of teething problems as well.
One other reason is worth noting for the choice for Apple to go USB-C, and that’s getting in there first.
Simply put, USB Type-C has been talked about for a couple of years now, and if Apple didn’t get in there first, someone else would have. Apple has been seen to try new ports faster than anyone else, and this is totally in line with what we’d expect from the company.
We couldn’t have imagined another manufacturer getting the jump on Apple for this one.