For years, the whole PC industry has been pulling ports. The first iMac (the great coloured CRT beast!) from back in 1999 was the first “machine” to come without a floppy drive. Since then, we’ve seen the plethora of ports that come with PC/Mac systems reduced down to in most cases, just USB. The Surface Pro 4 I have? Just USB – and on it goes. We’ve been all conditioned over that time to accept that everything from Ethernet to a video camera now connects on USB, an acceptance of the slight inconvenience in exchange for weight and thinness of the laptop. And for the record, that’s USB-A – a 20+ year old port standard. So standard, it does everything.
But Apple have “bucked” that trend once again. The new Macbook Pro has dropped the standard USB connector in favour of USB-C, a smaller and physically compatible connection. Is this a good idea? Well, unlike its cousins (MacBook & MacBook Air), the Pro has been the creative professional’s tool. Photographers, video camera guys, and all the rest of it. I know our Creative Director, Ryan, wouldn’t be without his… I’m struggling to see the point of having a “lightweight and thin laptop” when you’re then carrying port adaptors round as well.
Apple’s grip on this premium segment of the market is starting to wane a little; but that’s because everybody else has caught up. For 17 years now (since the first iMac) Apple have led the industry by bringing in industrial design to their products – not only do they work well, they look good to. But everybody else is catching up; we haven’t seen anything a “game changer” from Apple for a few years now.
But I’m not going to write them off; at this stage, that would be foolish. When they did the no-floppy iMac everybody went “omg”, but then it became the standard. When they ditched the Ethernet ports and CD ROM drives on their laptops everybody went “omg”. Yet, fast forward a few years and those things are industry standard. But they need to find a new market edge to push the products out in front again. This time, though, it does seem to be a little annoying.
Historically, the industry has changed ports over several generations of introducing new ports, e.g.: machines came with parallel, serial, PS/2 & USB ports for several irritations before the older ports were retired. A single generation change of chucking the old defiantly seems a brave move, particularly in line with the key market for this product (creative professionals). I guess the biggest irony is that whilst they’ve pulled the headphone port on the iPhone, it actually is still there on the Macbook Pro 😉
Kyle Williamson is Technical Director at Verstech Limited. He’s seen ports come and go…