Apple’s new 12-inch Retina MacBook has caused quite a stir due to its single, multi-purpose USB-C port. In the latest episode of his The Talk Show podcast, John Gruber posits that Apple may have been responsible for the new standard.
“I have heard, can’t say who, but let’s call them “informed little birdies”, that USB-C is an Apple invention and that they gave it to the standard bodies. And that the politics of such is that they can’t really say that. They’re not going to come out in public and say it, but they did. It is an Apple invention and they do want it to become a standard.”
The comment, first spotted by The Tech Block, comes at around the 54 minute mark of the podcast. Gruber goes on to say while there are some context in which Apple wants users to have a standard port, there are others in which they want the, to use proprietary ports, such as Apple’s own Lightning port.
Would Apple adopt USB-C in the place of it’s own Lightning port on iOS devices? Gruber, in a post from earlier in the week thinks not:
“I think the answer is probably “No, Apple is not going to switch the iPhone and iPad to USB-C”. I think Lightning is a more elegant design, including being slightly thinner. And I think Apple likes having a proprietary port on iOS devices.
“But, if they did move iOS devices to USB-C, then you could charge your iOS devices and MacBook with the same cable. And within a few years, all phones and tablets from all companies would charge using the same standard.”
Seth Weintraub of 9to5Mac says if Apple did invent the USB-C standard, they likely had a lot of help:
“On the initial USB Type-C press release from 2013, Intel, Texas Instruments and the USB Working Group are on the release without any sign of Apple. As inventors of the standard, Apple could have easily been mentioned here unless they were adamant about keeping their role silent.”
A seemingly complete list of engineers from a number of companies that contributed to the standard shows Apple with more listed contributors than all but a few companies, including Intel, Tyco and JAE.
“All told, Apple contributed 18 of 79 named engineers listed on the connector certification project or under 23%.”
Gruber responded to Weintraub’s post:
My comments on The Talk Show about Apple’s role in the creation of USB-C were somewhat hyperbolic. It was a brief aside. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that no other companies contributed to the final spec. Only that from what I’ve been told, Apple ought to be getting (and taking) credit as the leading company behind USB-C’s innovations. Not that they “invented” it, but that they “basically invented” it. I completely stand by that. But there are a lot of politics involved. One reason Apple isn’t taking more public credit for their role: they truly want USB-C to see widespread adoption; a perception that it’s an Apple technology might slow that down.
I’ll also point out that USB-C is a very Apple-like design. It is reversible and thin; because it can handle power, high-speed data transfer, and video, it (obviously, given the new MacBook) allows for a significant reduction in ports on a laptop. Every aspect of USB-C fits Apple’s design goals. You can’t say that about any previous USB port.
So, while Apple may not have been solely responsible for the USB-C standard, they certainly contributed to its existence.
Google’s recently announced new model of its Chromebook Pixel will also adopt the new standard.