When Steve Jobs introduced the Macbook Air in 2008, much was made of its pared-down complement of ports.
The trim notebook featured just a single USB 2.0 port and a Micro-DVI port for connecting a display, in addition to a Magsafe power connector and a headphone jack.
The latest 2014 Macbook Air sticks to the same basic formula (albeit with an additional USB port and a Thunderbolt connector in place of the old Micro-DVI), and the computer’s popularity indicates that most people are willing to trade ports for portability.
You won’t find USB Type-C cables on shelves yet. The technology is being demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, and should start appearing in computers later this year. The new USB cable can handle speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, and can be used to drive a computer display – meaning it can replace the Thunderbolt port on current Macbook Airs. It can also deliver power, eliminating the need for a separate Magsafe power port.
And, perhaps most important, Type-C connectors are reversible. Gone are the days of trying to plug in a USB cable with the right side up.
A single USB port means, of course, that Macbook Air owners wouldn’t be able to plug in more than one device at a time (plus headphones), but it would allow for docks or hubs that let users charge the device, power an external display, and use USB peripherals simultaneously.
Wireless services might also obviate the need for physical connections, at least for some users: Apple’s AirDrop service lets you move files between devices over a Wi-Fi network, and iCloud (along with similar services such as DropBox and Google Drive) helps ensure that users have enough file storage. Those technologies aren’t perfect by any means, but their existence makes it easier to contemplate using a machine with only a single hardware port for input and output.
The inclusion of a single, thin USB port means the new Macbook Air will be just over half the thickness of the current model, Mr. Gurman’s report says. The redesigned Macbook Air will have a 12-inch screen with almost no bezel, and a keyboard that reaches from one edge of the computer to the other, with keys squeezed slightly closer together to allow everything to fit. The design, as shown in renders on 9to5Mac, is reminiscent of the 12-inch aluminum Powerbook G4 laptop introduced in 2003.
9to5Mac has a pretty consistent track record with these kinds of predictions, but it’s worth remembering that the next Macbook Air isn’t guaranteed to look like the renders on the site. Still, if a USB Type-C port allows Apple to halve the thickness of the Macbook Air, it’s a good bet that the company will seize that opportunity.