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When Apple unveiled its ultra-thin, ultra-light, ultra-portable MacBook on Monday, onlookers noticed it was missing something besides a few extra pounds.
Ports. The new MacBook has just one port, called "USB-C," which Apple SVP Phil Schiller claimed was being adopted by more companies than just Apple. The USB-C will handle all your charging and peripheral needs -- at least, those ones that aren't already handled by wireless technology. Allegedly.
The 'C' Stands for 'Can You Believe This Is the Only Port?'
USB-C actually dates from last August, when the USB Promoter Group, which is responsible for the USB specification, finalized the design. USB-C is reversible (unlike the current USB-A connector, which you try to connect the wrong way 90 percent of the time) and supports the USB 3.1 "SuperSpeed" standard of 10 Gbps. Also thanks to USB 3.1, USB-C will let devices draw more power, meaning you can finally operate that ludicrously dangerous USB-powered hot plate.
Critics complain about the new design, but as the pre-eminent anthropologist Taylor Swift has observed, "Haters gonna hate." Apple is known for forcibly introducing new designs, and it's Apple that we have largely to thank for popularizing USB and eliminating both the floppy and optical media drives. (The kids these days don't remember the nightmare that was the Centronics connector and using a screwdriver to dial in an unused hardware address.)
Schiller also hinted that we should be using a lot more wireless technology, which is mostly true. Basically everyone I know who uses a laptop uses it wirelessly at home, though there are still a few occasions when you'd want a wired connection, like troubleshooting a cable modem or a router. The new notebook is also a problem if you have troublesome wireless devices, like an old wireless printer of mine that had a nasty habit of losing its connection; I ended up plugging a USB in, more often than not.
A Little Convenience
A shift to a single port for everything -- with the requisite pricey adapters -- will engender complaining, as it always does. The new cylinder-style Mac Pro received a similarly cold reception back in 2013, when we learned that there was no internal expansion. Apple really expected us to daisy-chain a bunch of Thunderbolt devices together?
Yes, they did, and while Thunderbolt isn't as fast as PCI Express, the Mac Pro is still doing fine, meaning people got over it fairly quickly. Apple frequently trades in some functionality for a decrease in size; it's the reason why our MacBook Pro's batteries and memory aren't removable anymore. A few people grumble, but most of us get over it, because most of us weren't going to remove the battery, anyway. The concern, though, is a decrease in user reparability, which feeds into what Cory Doctorow calls "the coming war on general purpose computing."