09.03.15 — Design

A Wireless Future Now?

Is the world ready to go truly wireless?

Given Apple’s history of pushing new trends forward, in particularly the drive to remove physical interfaces from their laptops (remember the sharp intake of air when the Retina MacBook came out without a CD drive?), today’s announcement of a MacBook with only one port wasn’t exactly a complete surprise.

I have never been naïve to the eventual downfall of physical transfers: be it data transfer/synchronisation, physical drive storage or wired charging – however some reflex in my gut seems to be telling me that the reduction of everything to one single port is too much too soon. With a retina display and other promoted features of importance only to tech-savvy users, such as fan-less operation, it begs the question – exactly who is Apple trying to target with it’s latest MacBook?

Power users will struggle, that’s for sure – how can one be expected to transfer HD imagery, connect an external monitor and charge the laptop simultaneously? Sure, a range of (expensive) adaptors will be available to accompany the machine, but surely power users do not want to carry an array of adaptors which they will have to swap out depending on the task at hand? And it cannot be argued that the new MacBook is geared towards light use – the hi-spec display and accompanying £1,050 (minimum) price tag make sure of that.

The leap to a MacBook Pro without a CD drive was wholly justifiable I believe, a sleeker profile coupled with the decline of disk media made it an obvious evolution – however to do away with USB Type A (the standard USB we all know) ports completely seems like a pointless and frankly idiotic sacrifice for a frivolous means: a wafer thin laptop.

Lighting and Thunderbolt are two recent port standards that Apple have developed, being promoted for their unrivalled speeds of transfer and multi-functionality (think the Lightening port being used as a headphone jack). How could Apple eschew these technologies so readily and so soon after their introduction and typical overzealous justification? It’s hardly surprising, though – their standardised MiniDisplay port and FireWire ports have been unceremoniously ripped from their product ranges in the past, always to an initial uproar.

The addition of an extra 2mm or so of bulk to the new MacBook’s profile, or the removal of the taper altogether, would have allowed Apple not only more space for battery capacity, but also to include more than one USB C ports, as well as retaining one or two USB A ports. I believe that a number (4 or 5) of USB C ports spread across the two sides of the MacBook’s body would have been a brilliant addition – allowing a user the same flexibility of using the ports for whatever they may desire (charging, data transfer or video/audio output) whilst still allowing users to complete multiple tasks simultaneously.

So with Apple’s latest MacBook I feel a frustration similar to that I experienced upon the release of the iPhone 6, a frustration that a company like Apple would sacrifice function (power in the MacBook and battery life in the iPhone) for form. I would even argue that such devices are now getting too thin, the race for thinness exercising an overpowering grip on tech companies, meaning important factors such as ergonomics and strength mostly overlooked. And how long is it until ‘bendgate’ grips the MacBook?

But all this said, maybe this MacBook is just another Apple Watch. Maybe it is just another way of coercing users into buying more of Apple’s infrastructure. The reveal presentation showed a new MacBook user streaming content to their Apple TV, which coincides rather nicely with the price reduction of their TV product. Much like the Apple Watch necessitates the purchase of an iPhone, it would seem the new MacBook necessitates the need for an Apple TV, an array of adaptors, and lord knows what else.

So a beautifully thin wireless laptop of the future, or a tactical marketing concoction? You decide.