Design to Bring About the Future

Marco Arment, “Design for the Present”:

A pro laptop released today should definitely have USB-C ports — mostly USB-C ports, even — but it should also have at least one USB-A port.

Including a port that’s still in extremely widespread use isn’t an admission of failure or holding onto the past — it’s making a pragmatic tradeoff for customers’ real-world needs. I worry when Apple falls on the wrong side of decisions like that, because it’s putting form (and profitability) over function.

This is perfectly sensible, and this is how every other computer maker thinks about transitions to new ports. Does anyone else make a notebook today that doesn’t have at least one USB-A port? Will anyone else make one next year that doesn’t?

But this is not how Apple thinks about transitions like this. They design for the future, and in doing so, they bring the future here faster. In the alternate universe where the new MacBook Pros ship with one USB-A port, the transition to ubiquitous USB-C peripherals and cables will happen at least a little slower.

Just the other day I wanted to move a really big file to my MacBook Pro review unit. I figured I’d use a USB memory stick. I was halfway up the stairs to my office before I realized that it wouldn’t work, because all my USB memory sticks are USB-A, and I don’t yet have any USB-A to C adapters. What a pain in the ass. But soon enough, all my shit will be USB-C. I’ve already bought a USB-C to Lightning cable from Apple. I just today ordered a couple of these USB-A to C adapters from Monoprice. I’m not sure I’d have bought any of those things if the new MacBook Pro had a USB-A port.

I’m not saying Marco is wrong. I’m just saying Apple’s not wrong either. It’s the same trade-off with the iPhone 7 headphone jack.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016