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Chargers would be replaced with a ubiquitous USB 3.0 solution, supporting up to 100 watts of draw

Today, other than Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone, smartphones have made the leap from proprietary connectors to a single ubiquitous standard -- micro-USB.  This is a huge relief for phone users, as it means whether you have a Windows Phone or an Android phone, it's easy to find replacement chargers.

But the situation in the world of laptops remains far worse.

Virtually every manufacturer has its own proprietary brand of A/C adaptors, most of which use some kind of post-style plug.  

But the USB 3.0 Promoter Group has published a new standard [PDF], which proposes using new USB 3.0 power cables as a ubiquitous replacement to proprietary adaptors.  Under the proposal, laptops could draw up to 100 watts off of bi-directional, backwards compatible USB 3.0 cables.  

The USB cable could be plugged into a "mains adaptor" -- an adaptor that converts household alternating current to a useable direct current supply fed into the USB.  Currently, such adaptors are commonly used to charge smartphones.  As the connector to the device -- a USB cable -- is common and the amount of power delivered predictably defined by the USB standard, the choice of current adaptor is inconsequential.

USB 3.0
[Image Source: Cleveland Leader]

This will make replacing power supplies much easier -- if it’s adopted.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group is the group responsible for successfully developing and pushing the third-generation USB standard on the world.  Its members include Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ), Intel Corp. (INTC), Texas Instruments, Inc. (TXN), Renesas Electronics Corp. (TYO:6723), and ST-Ericsson -- a joint venture between NXP Semi. NV (NXPI) and STMicroelectronics N.V. (EPA:STM).

Still, even with past successes and a super-star ensemble of industry power players there's cause for skepticism, given the long history of fruitless efforts to move laptops away from proprietary adaptors, as commemorated in the well-known XKCD comic "Standards".  Let's hope this effort bears more fruit that those past failed bids.

Source: USB 3.0 Promoter Group [PDF]

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USB3 for 100 watts?
By cooldadd on 7/25/2012 1:10:49 AM , Rating: 2
Pardon me if I'm skeptical of a backward-compatible charging system allowing 100 watts of power over USB. USB provides a 5-volt interface. To provide 100 watts of power over a 5 volt interface, the plug and cable would need to carry 20 amperes.

I'm not a hardware engineer, but I'm guessing that it would take a radically different USB connecter than the current implementations to handle a 20-amp load, and even if the interface design were able to identify and connect to a standard 1-amp USB 1.1/2/3 cable being plugged in for charging (a laptop, for instance), the user would be disappointed in the 20x reduction in charging speed...

One big reason that most laptops use proprietary (non-USB) input power systems is that the higher the voltage, the less current is needed to supply a given wattage; a 15-volt supply to provide 100 watts would only have to carry 1.5 amps. The cable necessary to provide a 100-watt input at the USB voltage level of 5 volts would not be easy to coil up around your hand and stick into your laptop bag! Think of more like an appliance extension cord...

RE: USB3 for 100 watts?
By Odysseus145 on 7/25/2012 1:29:58 PM , Rating: 2
According to the published specs, the standard uses several different power profiles depending on the needs of the peripheral device. To deliver 100W, it would provide 5 A at 20 V. It can also run at 12 V and obviously 5 V.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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