USB Type-C may change computing forever

With its reversibility, tiny form factor, incredible bandwidth, support for up to 4 amps of current, and embedded DisplayPort capability, USB Type-C is the universal docking connector that we always wanted. On the new Macbook, this means that future monitors with integrated USB hubs can have a single wire for connection. Since it’s not part of the Apple Walled Garden of hardware, anyone can adopt it, and I think they will.

This is incredibly exciting to me. Beyond the convenience for Ultrabook computers, seeing this connector on phones means that there will finally be a universal connector that allows you to connect a phone to a full sized display and keyboard. Imagine plugging your phone into your monitor and getting a desktop experience, with all your photos and personal data already on hand. Or a laptop form factor with a supplemental battery that your phone plugs into, getting a usefully fast computer with an active LTE connection as part of the bargain.

This has all been tried before in one way or another. Apple failed over twenty years ago with the Powerbook Duo. Palm never shipped the Foleo. The Motorola Atrix was clunky as a desktop computer. The key difference is that for the first time, the lifecycles of these advanced peripherals and their host devices are decoupled. Imagine a laptop sleeve that works on not just your current phone but the one you’ll buy two years from now. Imagine a tablet sleeve that costs $100 that gets upgraded every time you buy a new phone.

Display technology is fairly mature. The display on the original Retina iPad is still one of the best out there, but it’s irreversibly fused with obsolete hardware. The bill of materials for most modern mobile devices reveals that a 300 dpi IPS tablet display is well under $100. Combine that with commodity USB hardware and a digitizer, and you could very well have a 10" tablet sleeve for very little money. Cars that adopt USB-C can simply mirror the phone displays to their touchscreens, seamlessly updating the navigation and infotainment to the latest and greatest.

Of course, at the moment, there are no USB-C mobile devices. And some work will have to happen to implement alternate input devices and displays. But there has never been a better time to do this work. As these devices proliferate, and they will, users will already have devices with this hardware capability in hand, with the connector that will make amazing things possible.

As the most advanced computing devices we own are the ones in our pockets, don’t be surprised if your new PC is the one in your pocket.