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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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RE: This would be awesome!
By Solandri on 7/25/2012 2:53:16 AM , Rating: 3
Because Apple got a patent on it which should be invalidated. Magnetic power cords were used in the 1990s on deep fryers, to prevent people from spilling hot oil over themselves if they tripped on the cord.
http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/07/03/deep.fryers/

This far predates Apple's 2007 magsafe patent. But somehow the USPTO figured taking an existing idea and adding the words "on a laptop" to it was worthy of a patent.

Nobody is challenging Apple's patent because it's just not worth the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for a multi-year patent fight. The non-magnetic designs are marginally weaker, but not really problematic. I've had a couple cords fray because of the 90 degree bend of some designs, and had one laptop where the entire power circuit board cracked from repeatedly bending small amounts. (Fatigue failure - not sure a magnetic connection would've helped there. Ideally you want to design the solder joints to fail first, since that can be fixed by replacing a 50 cent part.)

I've tripped on power cords multiple times. Most of the time they pull out. Sometimes they send the laptop flying off the table. Did that a half dozen times with my old Thinkpad - probably an indication the connection was overdesigned and held the power cord too tightly. Fortunately, the Thinkpad was tough enough that it worked fine after each fall (including one forceful enough to dislodge the ejectable CD drive and PCMCIA card). I've never actually broken the power connector on any laptop I've owned.


"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg














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