Perhaps this is why Microsoft hasn’t embraced USB-c


The impossible dream of USB-C

October 14, 2017

by Marco Arment

I love the idea of USB-C: one port and one cable that can replace all other ports and cables. It sounds so simple, straightforward, and unified.

In practice, it’s not even close.

Comments (17)

17 responses to “Perhaps this is why Microsoft hasn’t embraced USB-c”

  1. jimchamplin

    I worry that USB-C is that shitty thing that we're being herded inexorably toward without regard for the quality of the experience, only because OMG such new very thin wow. They so want to make crap wafer thin that they're going to stop at nothing, not even the user experience.

    Again, thinness driving things toward mediocre. I miss the hell out of cool, useful things. After the terrible experience I've had with my Mac mini's compromised design, maybe I should go back to buying used giant desktops. Three generation old top-end is still better than the low-end junk that gets sold as high-end now.

    Some people are real road warriors and a light thin book is great. Unfortunately, most manufacturers seem to forget that not everyone needs a half-ounce lappy.

    Gimme 9 real USB ports, PCIx, 4 PCI, 8 RAM slots, and 12 HD bays or go home.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      Thinness isn't the big issue here; Type C can offer a ton of performance.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        It's not the connector, it's the protocol. USB-C is simply a plug, just like USB-A and USB-B before it. USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 are the data protocols. Those are what's fast. T'bolt 3 could just as easily have used the same plug as T'bolt 2, which is a mini DisplayPort connector.

  2. MutualCore

    Maybe Microsoft is working with partners(Dell, HP, Lenovo, Belkin, Apple, etc...) to come up with standards on cables.

    F.e., USB-C Thunderbolt 3 certified for data. USB-C certified for fast Quick Charge 3.0, etc... So consumers know exactly what the cable is fully capable of, because 'USB-C' means nothing at this point.

    • TheJoeFin

      In reply to MutualCore:

      When I see USB-C on something I think, "well I know it'll plug in..." but that is as far as you can go really. Will it charge? Will it send data? Will it do both? Will it quick charge? Will it do TB3? Will it do both? Will it do neither?! yeah it is maddening

  3. ecumenical

    This is a good point.

    It's been suggested that the reason MS added USB-C without Thunderbolt to the Surface Book 2 is because there isn't enough I/O bandwidth to supply both Thunderbolt and the Surface Connect port. If that's the case then the trade-off is between backward compatibility for chargers/docks and Thunderbolt support. So, adding a USB-C connector without Thunderbolt while retaining the Surface Connect port is a solid compromise. People can use USB-C accessories, and the Surface Connect port handles a big chunk of what people want Thunderbolt for anyway (docking).

  4. wshwe

    USB-C charging is still preferable to proprietary charging. It's still early days for USB-C. USB-B took awhile to work out the kinks.

  5. Vladimir Carli

    the article is wrong. All usb-c ports on macbooks and macbooks pro are thunderbolt


    • PincasX

      In reply to Vladimir:

      Macbook Pros all have thunderbolt the MacBooks do not.

    • Vladimir Carli

      They have reduced bandwidth (2 out of 4) but they are definitively thunderbolt ports.


    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Vladimir:

      Nope. Nope nope nope.

      Several 13" models do NOT support full bandwidth on the right-hand side ports.

      Because USB-C sucks ass.


        In reply to jimchamplin:

        This is caused by the different Intel Processors used for each MacBook. The i5-7267U processor in the 13" MacBook Pro has only 12 PCIe lanes. While the i7-6700HQ processor in the 15" MacBook Pro has 16 PCIe lanes. Any PC laptop that uses these same Intel chips (far more likely they'll use lesser versions of these chips) would suffer the same limitation.

        • jimchamplin

          In reply to TEAMSWITCHER:

          The reason is immaterial. Not all MacBook Pro ports are equal.

          Don't you understand? The cause doesn't matter. The effect is that USB-C remains a confusing mess. If the limitations are by design by Intel, then it's even worse.

          It's pitiful.

  6. Chris_Kez

    I can only hope that over the next year or two we'll see some sort of labelling system emerge and PC, peripheral and cable manufacturers will get on board. At the same time I think the industry needs to get their stuff together and develop some agreed upon practices for how this "standard" is implemented. They're racing ahead without full regard for the end user.

  7. TheJoeFin

    Yeah that blog post is a pretty good analysis of why USB-C is still largely a dream and has a lot of complexities which normal users won't understand or be able to fix. In the past the physical port compatibility correlated very closely with the digital compatibility, but USB-C throws that out the window. Not all USB-C ports can do power and data, and not all can do Thunderbolt-3. Not all USB-C cables have the same capability. Finally now that phones and laptops have the same port the confusion gets magnified even more.

    I think the other problem with USB-C is that the new port and standard has come around when devices can be largely wireless. Mice, keyboards, printers, internet connection, storage, and even power on smaller devices can all connect wirelessly. This means the advantages of USB-C are seen largely only by powerusers.

    Brad and Paul have said many times that generally the best software solution comes from a company which solves only that problem, such as Newton Mail being best because all they do is mail, or Todoist being best because they only do to-do tracking. I wonder if the same is true about computer hardware. The best results come from dedicated hardware, not generalized catch-all solutions.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to TheJoeFin:

      It's definitely how things have always worked. Firewire was the better bus for high-throughput devices such as mass-storage and video capture. Thunderbolt better for even-higher-bandwidth while USB was fine for consumer applications. You don't need constant, long-duration transmission for consumer uses, but you do for high-end pro uses.

      Now the intention is to use one port that does it all. Aaaaaand it doesn't do any of them well, which is to be expected from such a hackneyed solution to a problem that nobody had. The USB-C connector was fine as an alternate, small connector for thin ultrabooks but when it was decided that they could use it for EVERYTHING, that's when the whole thing went south.

      Now we have this Hell on Earth cooked up by OEMs to drive sales toward high-end lappies since they're going to PUSH USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. Wanna use modern peripherals? Better have a machine with USB-C, and good luck making it work!

      Even money that USB-C expansion cards for desktops will be scarce and prohibitively expensive.