Ports

Largely on the basis of the monoport MacBook, which takes power and serves video and (presumably) network traffic over a single port, The Verge predicts that USB C is going to kill Thunderbolt and Lightning connectors.

I don’t think this scenario is entirely likely. The Lightning connector is here to stay for Apple’s mobile devices. USB C offers no advantage here- it’s no smaller and likely to be less resilient, and certainly doesn’t allow for an authentication chip! It would be confusing and not particularly useful to have the Lightning port on a laptop – it would either have to reject charging input, or more than one cable would be needed for video, network and power, because the bus is does not have enough bandwidth.

The situation with Thunderbolt, and the MagSafe power connector for that matter, is much more confusing. Thunderbolt was due to be revised (in line with ‘Skylake14nm chipsets) in 2015 with a new (slim?) connector. The new spec was promised to offer all the advantages of USB C – including power over the cable. Intel reckons Skylake laptops should also support wireless charging – although whether Apple’s will, remains to be seen.

So why didn’t Apple wait for it’s own, new Thunderbolt 3 connector? And why did Apple get rid of Magsafe? The new MacBook (at less than 2 pounds!) is really going to fly off the table when the cable tugs it.

The main advantage of a single cable for power and data would be to dock with Apple’s own displays. But, maddeningly, you can’t connect the new Macbook to the existing Thunderbolt display (generic link!). Will the next iteration of the Apple Display will have a USB C connector, and a Magsafe + Thunderbolt splitter for backwards compatibility? Well, this iteration of the Macbook presumably won’t be able to properly connect to any future Apple display…because it will be 5k, like the Retina iMac, and the new Macbook will not be able to drive it.

Many people have been drawing comparisons to the original Macbook Air, which got rid of ports and optical drives. The comparison is apt. The first iteration, whilst looking amazing, was hobbled by being underpowered. The first iteration of the new Macbook is an incredible stand-alone machine. But it’s poorly integrated into Apple’s current and future product line. This poor integration seems deliberate, in order to get the machine out, even though other complementary products are not ready. The new Macbook will be a better proposition, if and when a new chipset allows it proper connectivity, and the Mac ecosystem adapts around it.

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