MacBook makes a case for wireless docking — but too soon

14 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

11 USB-C Cables and Adapters for Apple’s New Macbook.

The new MacBook is supposed to usher in a wire-free future for laptops, but Apple left out technologies that could have saved road warriors a few ungainly wires. “The only intelligent vision for the future of the notebook is one without wires, where you don’t have to plug up cables to connect to things,” Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said as he introduced the MacBook on Monday. Apple’s MagSafe charger is a wonderful charging technology that has saved my MacBook more times than I can count, but if the cord frays — or if you lose or break it — you’re left with no choice but buying a new one from Apple. But while he crowed about the IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 built into the laptop, Schiller never mentioned that Apple passed on emerging technologies to make a USB connection over the air or wirelessly link peripherals at 7Gbps (bits per second). Instead, he praised the single, solitary USB-C port on the MacBook, which can serve as a power, a video and a data transfer interface—and will have to, for the many peripherals that can’t use Apple’s AirPlay and AirDrop. If you want to, say, plug in your MacBook, charge your iPhone, access an external hard drive and use a big screen without an Apple TV all at the same time, you’ll probably need an adapter or two.

Belkin and SanDisk have already announced their first USB-C gadgets, and eventually cut-rate retailers like Monoprice.com will enter the fray with generic Chinese cables. A pre-certified version of the WiGig high-frequency wireless protocol is already available in some wireless docks, and a completed specification called MA (Media Agnostic) USB brings that popular interface to WiGig, Wi-Fi and other kinds of networks. Sometimes even Apple can’t generate that kind of whirlwind in the market. “It’s one of those things that Apple probably is interested in, but the time frame is not quite right,” Gartner wireless analyst Mark Hung said. Qualcomm and Intel already sell WiGig chips, and WiGig will be included in Intel’s Skylake platform that’s coming in the second half of this year.

As with any technology, it will take more products to make WiGig cheap enough that manufacturers start putting it in displays and other peripherals, eventually making a dock unnecessary. That probably won’t happen until 2018 at the earliest, Grodzinsky said, though things might speed up a lot if WiGig got into a high-profile product—like a MacBook. “That is the kind of key win I’m talking about,” Grodzinsky said.

If you have an older monitor, you’ll want this adapter, which splits the MacBook’s USB-C port into a USB-C passthrough for power, a VGA video-out, and a USB-A 3.1 data transfer cable. The idea behind a wireless USB standard is that it’s compatible with the drivers that devices already use, which can save testing and development time. About 10 years ago, the USB Implementers Forum approved a standard for putting the popular transport protocol over UWB (ultrawideband), a technology that ran into obstacles to wide adoption, including different spectrum rules around the world.

LaCie is coming out of the gate with the first native USB-C compatible hard drive, a sleek, aluminum device which will come in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB sizes. It doesn’t appear to be a passthrough adapter, but you can transfer files onto its 32GB of storage to move them from other laptops, tablets, and phones over to your MacBook.

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