Yesterday at Apple’s Spring Forward event, the company unveiled their new MacBook laptop. The new MacBook sports an incredibly thin design, fanless innards, and a beautiful retina display. However, like a hairy mole on the face of a model, the device has only one port, and it’s the mysterious USB-C. The internet has been in an outcry ever since the announcement, with most worried that they won’t be able to plug-in their favorite peripherals. I hear and understand these concerns as they are very valid. However, Apple has a track record of being very smart and strategic in implementing such change. As such, I would argue that there is more to the “why” behind such a drastic change.
USB technology has been advancing at snail-like speeds. First developed and released in the mid-to-late 90’s, the design of the connector port for the USB has not changed since inception. That’s nearly 20 years without a change to how we connect many of our devices to our computers! In the wake of a world dominated by mobile devices however, this has become a problem as USB ports are relatively bulky in size. Designers could never fit a full-sized USB into a smartphone. However, with the significantly smaller USB-C, this connector could become universal across computers and mobile devices alike creating a much improved unified experience.
Now, to satisfy your older device needs, Apple is releasing a number of dongles and attachments that will allow you to connect antiquated USB devices. Many are claiming this is a profit-grab play by Apple. I disagree. Apple has a track record of seeing the future and heralding (pushing) it across their loyal fan-base leading to mainstream adoption. While Apple will certainly profit from dongle sales, I would argue that their real end-goal is to drive mainstream adoption of USB-C for the betterment of the technology.
They’ve Done It Before
This isn’t the first time that Apple has implemented such a strategy either. If you can remember back to the early days of the late 2000s, Apple was often mocked for not supporting Adobe Flash on the iPhone and iPad. Apple was adamant about not supporting it as they saw it as a dying technology that didn’t play well with mobile devices. That testimony was only furthered by Android users complaining of poor battery life and performance caused by the processor intensive Adobe Flash.
As such, Apple saw HTML5 as the future and supported that within iOS for online interactive experiences on Apple devices. Because of the strength of Apple’s fan-base, this adamancy forced web developers to consider a shift in how they approached developing such online experiences. Fast-forward to today, HTML5 is widely considered the standard, while Flash is considered by most as obsolete. Without Apple making this decision, I would argue that the landscape of the internet would look very different today. The internet is a better place for mobile devices and tablets as a result of Apple’s drastic software choices many years ago.
They’ll Do It Again
Returning back to why Apple is forcing USB-C upon us, they’re making this decision for the same reasons they forced HTML5 upon us years ago. We need an advancement in technological adoption of the connector. When businesses are considering how to develop and design their devices, a primary decision-making factor is ensuring that the experience will be a positive one for the masses. Without a large user-base being impacted negatively when not natively supporting USB-C, it would take substantially longer to get innovators to support the new technology. With the likely success of Apple’s new Macbook, there will be a much greater justification for device creators to consider creating devices in native USB-C.
In short, by forcing this new technology upon us, they are creating stronger reasons for device creators to adopt the new USB technology. With stronger adoption, Apple and others will be able to create better devices. With better devices, the world will be a better place. That’s all Apple wants. (and crazy amounts of profit of course.)
What do you think? Is Apple just trying to drive mainstream adoption of USB-C? Or are they trying to profit off us through dongle sales? Let us know in the comments below.