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Microsoft Thinks USB-C Isn't Ready For the Mainstream ( 293

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface Laptop last week, it left many customers and members of the press scratching their heads over its lack of a USB Type-C port. According to general manager of Surface Engineering, Pete Kyriacou, Microsoft seems to think that the technology isn't ready for the mainstream. Digital Trends reports: Microsoft does not want customers to deal with the various Type-C cables, underwhelming chargers, all the adapters, and the third-party Type-C docks. That is why the Surface Laptop features only one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, one headphone jack, one Mini DisplayPort connector, and the Surface Connect port. Simplicity. That latter connection is how customers can "safely" expand their Surface device experience. Microsoft's $200 Microsoft Surface Dock adds two Mini DisplayPort connectors, one gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, and one audio out port. The dock connects to a compatible Surface device via Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect port. Right now, it works with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book but the Surface Laptop will undoubtedly be added soon. While limiting a Surface device's connectivity seems like forcing customers into purchasing the dock, Microsoft sees this setup as brand stability. Customers won't get ticked at Microsoft because they are confused about the different types of cables, chargers, and so on. Microsoft is controlling the end-to-end experience and there is nothing wrong with that.
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Microsoft Thinks USB-C Isn't Ready For the Mainstream

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  • because (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @08:53PM (#54388939)

    Microsoft has good judgement

    • Re:because (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Beau1080p ( 4928265 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @10:39PM (#54389555)
      This time, yes. I like USB C and all. Features looked really cool, so I got a laptop that I can charge over USB C. But I ran into the same "early adopter" issues as I did when I got a USB 3.0 mobo around 2010. Bugs weren't all worked out and I ended up with errors causing the motherboard to reject the device or "unplug" it and it would randomly power back up hours later or if I swapped ports. Having the same problem now with USB C power supply. Give it another six months and it will be straightened out.

      So even by random chance, Microsoft is going to get one right every now and then. Don't be a hater, AC.

      • Re:because (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @12:29AM (#54390077)

        Honestly I've never had any problems with either USB 3 or Type-C, even when they were brand new.

        IMO if they wanted to do something awesome, put one Thunderbolt 3 port and one USB 3.0 port on it, and nothing else. THAT would be simplicity. Then they could make their little dock thing just connect to the Thunderbolt port and work with just any Thunderbolt 3 device. Instead what we end up with is yet another proprietary power adapter, and both the power adapter and the dock become useless once you no longer have the computer.

        Another bonus of using Thunderbolt 3 is that you could use an external GPU enclosure (i.e. Razer Core) and add any desktop GPU of your choice to it. Word is they work pretty damn well, though you sacrifice about 15% of the GPU's performance vs a regular desktop setup. (That, and Mac users will struggle to get them to work, but IIRC Apple did that deliberately.)

        And for anybody who doesn't know, Thunderbolt 3 is 100% compatible with any USB-C device; uses the same form factor and the pinout is compatible.

        • Re:because (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @07:45AM (#54391245) Homepage Journal

          Thunderbolt is a huge security hole. I'd rather not have the ability to plug things into my PCIe bus externally, thanks. At least with USB you have some hope of securing it.

        • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

          Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3 can both use the same physical USB-C port. That's what Apple laptops do.

          So rather than one of each, just port two combined ports on - or more.

        • That's actually part of the problem. There are a bunch of ports that look exactly like USB-C ports but they don't all do the same thing. You see something on your computer or phone that looks like a USB-C port but it could be any number of things:

          1. A bog standard USB-C port that implements Superspeed Gen 2 USB (10Gbps)
          2. A USB 3.0 standard port (5Gbps)
          3. A USB 2.0 standard port (480Mbps) - these are mostly on phones
          4. A Thunderbolt 3 port that implements some unknown number of PCIe lanes
          5. A USB-C port

      • Re:because (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @02:48AM (#54390497) Journal

        This time, yes.

        I disagree. USB-C is clearly going to replace USB-A over time. It works well and provides high speed and good power connectivity. However not many devices support it yet so if you want a machine that you can use today and still use in a few years time the best bet is a machine which supports both USB-A and C. Instead we have Apple producing machines which will be great in a few years time but bad now and MS providing ones which are great now but will be a pain in a few years time....which is why I bought a Dell with both USB-A and C so I can use it now and in a few years time.

        • I remain unconvinced.

          Firstly there is lots of functionality but it is pretty much all optional. Maybe that port supports delivering lots of power to devices, maybe that port supports receiving power from a power brick, maybe that port supports host mode, maybe that port supports device mode, maybe that port supports displayport, maybe that port support HDMI, maybe that port supports thunderbolt, maybe that port supports USB 3.1 speeds, maybe that port supports analog audio. Lots and lots of room for user co

      • by thsths ( 31372 )

        I can't see anything wrong with USB-C. My laptop has two of them, so I can charge from the left or the right.

        I know there are different voltage levels, so I would not try to charge my laptop with a power supply not designed for it. I assume it just would not work (given that this laptop needs 15V, and most others need less).

        But I do agree that using one connector for everything could be confusing if you are not used to the concept.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Of course MS knows better than us that its new proprietary connector is much more ready for mainstream than the standard USB-C.

    • Especially for external devices, if it fits it should work. Right now with USB-c there are too many different types of wires that can degrade or make devices unusable.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @08:54PM (#54388945)

    I have zero issue with my nexus devices and my MacBook - both use USB-C and I have yet to find a cable or device that doesn't perform as intended on any of the devices.

    The various flavors of USB are enough to drive someone to drink. USB-C is a welcome change that actually fulfills the promise of the word "Universal" in USB.

    I think Microsoft is just chickening out here.

    • Not ready for Type-C? sounds Microsoft familiar. NIH syndrome.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ark42 ( 522144 )

      I can't get my Nexus to charge 50% of the time when I plug it into a FULL external battery, because of USB-C. 50% of the time, My Nexus 5x thinks that the most logical default would be for the phone (at 15% battery left) to use it's remaining battery to charge the external battery, which is surely around 95% or more full already.
      The whole bidirectional aspect of USB-C seems like a total failure to me. I have to remember to unlock my phone, pull down the menu at the, and change the charge direction. There is

      • That sounds like something that could be fixed in firmware
        • I mean, technically yes. Technically, it could be changed to not conform to the spec, or to conform in a different way, I don't know which. But, either of those would be cases of it "not being ready"

      • Yes, the crappy software in one specific device is a major failing of the USB-C standard.

      • You either have the world's worst external battery or are plugging it in to the wrong port. The way USB power supply works, the device has to detect that it is in host mode and negotiate with the device receiving charge before it will supply more than 100mA.

        So in order for your problem to manifest, your external battery must be acting as a USB device rather than as dumb charger or host. That suggests you either plugged in to the charge port instead of the output port, or the battery has a really really really terrible USB controller in it.

        USB-C is no more bidirectional than any other variant of USB. It's all negotiated over the USB protocol, just the same as older USB plugs and sockets.

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:35PM (#54389197)
      You: "I think Microsoft is just chickening out here."

      Microsoft: "Industry standardized interfaces are too confusing for people, they should use our proprietary, device specific one."

      I don't think that counts as "chickening out," it's Apple-like courage [].
    • I think Microsoft is just chickening out here.

      Did you even read the summary? "Microsoft is controlling the end-to-end experience and there is nothing wrong with that." What about that don't you understand? There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Nothing.

    • I have yet to find a cable or device

      I have yet to need to find a cable or device. That's kind of the point. You have a Nexus and a MacBook. Lucky you. I have a million android devices, older hubs, traditional USB devices etc etc. and I have yet to find anything I can't plug into the Surface USB-A port which includes every device everyone has ever given me (USB stick, card, camera, etc).

      On the other hand I have not a single plug, cable, device or adapter that plugs into the USB-C port on my HP machine.

      USB-C is the future, and for the time bein

      • You don't need a fist full of adaptors. If every device you have fits into a USB A port on your surface, then all you need is one adaptor, a C to A.

        • by ( 4475953 )

          Or you could have a USB-A port and need no adapter at all.

        • I have one better: I don't need ANY adapter.

          I anticipate that maybe in 4 years some 10% of my devices may be USB-C. I anticipate my laptop will be replaced in 4 years any way. USB-C on a laptop is a liability if it doesn't also have USB-A. Especially an ultra portable which is intended to be used without lugging around anything else.

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @08:56PM (#54388957)

    Apple is dropping everything and only offers USB-C while Microsoft includes almost everything except USB-C.

    It's like both companies don't want to have transition periods between the present and the future.

    At least Microsoft isn't braindead and is keeping the traditional headphone jack. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apple is not dropping everything. They are still retaining their proprietary iPhone connector which allows them to bilk customers for custom chargers.

      • by Karlt1 ( 231423 )

        You do realize that you can get third party chargers for $5 don't you? []

        • Sure if you externalize the costs of burning your house down.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
      And people say they don't have choices!
    • In the context of this discussion Apple aren't getting rid of the headphone jack - it's the only connector the new MBP does have aside from USBC.
  • It's there. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:03PM (#54389011)

    My new laptop at work (ZBook 15 G3) has USB-C. It's everything USB should have been since the beginning.

    Reversible, Just Works(Tm). It'll drive 2 4k external TVs.

    Laptop itself has Ethernet, VGA, 3xUSB3.0 and 2xUSB-C ports. Holds 64GB of RAM, 2xM.2 NVMe drives and 1x 2.5" drive.

    The dock could still use some work. You shouldn't have to issue a white paper on how to hook up monitors [] (Which is still wrong, the HDMI port drives 4k just fine.).

    If I *need* to do some GPU work I can plug in an external GPU []. Or gigabit ethernet or any other PCIe device.

    Microsoft screwed up on this one. They're releasing old hardware. I bet they could have easily charged a surface on over USB Power Delivery []. It's taken us a while but USB-C is pretty damn good as far as a physical connection. And Thunderbolt 3 is equally as good of a protocol. []

    For most people if the 'desktop is dead' it's because USB-C/TB killed it. I just want to plug my laptop into cluster of CPUs when I'm at my desk.

    • Re:It's there. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @10:25PM (#54389477)

      If I *need* to do some GPU work I can plug in an external GPU. Or gigabit ethernet or any other PCIe device.

      Which means that your ZBook 15 G3 has a Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C port. But you've simply called it USB-C, which could also be merely USB 3 Gen2, USB 3 Gen1, or even technically USB 2. Which provides a perfect case study for Microsoft's point.

      I bet they could have easily charged a surface on over USB Power Delivery.

      Of course, you charge your device through the USB-C port, right? Nope! [] Your laptop still has a separate charging port. But USB-C should let you charge a device at up to 100W []. Don't you have USB-C? You said it could easily be done. Why not?

      Which is Microsoft's point...

      • you charge your device through the USB-C port

        Where did I claim that? I have a business laptop with a Xeon and 64 GB of RAM. This is a Surface.

        But USB-C should let you charge

        Which is all nice and good. I have a 150W adapter. It's a different device and market than the Surface.

        • The point is: If your chargeable device has an USB C port, it should be chargeable via that port, no matter what. Everything else is just stupid and confusing.
    • No thanks. I like charging a laptop via a magnetic connector. Apple's biggest mistake was moving away from magsafe.

      Also while USB-C is everything USB always should have been, it's also everything that USB is not yet. Why the hell would I buy a device where I need to adapt everything to it? In 3-5 years I may consider it. Right now USB-C is a liability.

      If you only provide one port that is. Frankly they could just as easily include a USB C port next to USB A.

      But charging, no they made the right decision stick

  • have to give the devil his due
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:16PM (#54389071) Homepage

    USB C is, finally, USB done right. The connector is small, which is good for small devices; there is only one connector (no A and B variants); since there's only one connector you don't need a huge variety of cables (just USB A to USB C plus USB C to USB C and you are covered for 99.9% of scenarios); the plug doesn't have a "top" or "bottom", it just plugs in; and it was even designed to deliver useful amounts of power (enough to charge a small laptop).

    My phone and my wife's phone are USB C and I just bought a Samsung Chromebook Plus, which charges by USB C (and it has two USB C ports, making it better than the Apple netbook). I'm planning to ask my employer to give me a laptop with USB C ports. I'm just waiting for a compact camera that uses USB C for charging and data and I'll buy that too. If I can manage it I won't buy another gadget with Micro USB or Mini USB ever again.

    So congratulations, Microsoft! You managed to give me yet another reason to not buy your mobile devices!

    P.S. I'm waiting for someone to make a kit that includes two or three USB C cables (USB C on both ends) plus a bunch of adapters: USB C to USB A, USB C to Mini USB, USB C to Micro USB, USB C to USB B, USB C to Ethernet jack, etc. Plus a USB to serial and USB to parallel and USB to IDE and SATA. It would be one kit that would let you connect almost anything to your laptop.

    • You're ahead of the curve. The vast majority of people and by far the vast majority of devices out there are NOT USB-C. It makes no sense to get a USB-C only laptop yet. Mind you it doesn't make much sense to release a USB-A only laptop but it makes more sense right now than a USB-C only device.

      Unless you have the opinion of fuck you customer you can just dongle the dongle dongle and that way everything will work.

    • P.S. I'm waiting for someone to make a kit that includes two or three USB C cables (USB C on both ends) plus a bunch of adapters: USB C to USB A, USB C to Mini USB, USB C to Micro USB, USB C to USB B, USB C to Ethernet jack, etc. Plus a USB to serial and USB to parallel and USB to IDE and SATA. It would be one kit that would let you connect almost anything to your laptop.

      Your kit already exists ! [] And as a bonus it's only one cable.

  • by hawkeyeMI ( 412577 ) <brock AT brocktice DOT com> on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:18PM (#54389085) Homepage
    I am a big fan of USB C. I searched high and low for a laptop that charges over USB C and meets my other requirements. I found one. I use a Pixel XL. Both these devices charge over higher voltages (5-9V for the pixel, 12-20V for the laptop) using USB Power Delivery. It was supposed to be Utopia. Instead, I've had to dig through spreadsheets, comb through reviews, and still haven't been able to find everything I'm looking for in terms of USB C accessories. Yes, one day everyone will catch up. A surface pro would help it along. But I can't blame them for waiting. They're right.
    • One port to rule them all seems like a great initiative to throw away all those proprietary power bricks for laptops, monitors, scanners, TVs, NUCs that eschew bulky internal power supplies. My home office alone has 5 of them. (That's not to mention USB A cables to four separate output types in B, micro, mini, USB 3 micro B)

      A question though, do those commonly found USB-A ports at coffee shops, university desks, at airports and on long distance trains, coaches and aeroplanes draw enough current to charge a

      • A question though, do those commonly found USB-A ports at coffee shops, university desks, at airports and on long distance trains, coaches and aeroplanes draw enough current to charge a laptop with a USB-A to C cable?

        Nope. USB-C is a complex beast, and if you want high-power charging you need devices on both ends of the cable to support the USB Power Delivery protocol, and of course be able to deliver or receive high power.

  • The Surface isn't even mainstream itself. Have you ever seen a Surface outside of the NFL sidelines? They aren't selling.
  • Remember 1995! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:27PM (#54389151)
    Microsoft is the same company that almost missed the Internet for Windows. When The Road Ahead [] by Bill Gates came out, it had no mentioned of the Internet. Gates and the publisher revised the book. You can't have a visionary missing one of the biggest technological developments of his time.
    • Missing something is not the same thing as adopting a standard that is unlikely to become mainstream for several years on a device that is only expected to last several years.

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2017 @09:53PM (#54389307)
    Either have a dedicated power cable or figure out how to prevent low powered USB C ports from being fried if you plug in the wrong cable. Until they solve that problem, it isn't ready for the mainstream. The ports should be smart enough to not take the full voltage. I've already seen a few folks fry their expensive phones by plugging in the wrong USB C cable.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      There is no reason modern electronics should fry unless they receive something truly out of spec (like a spike of 220VAC).

    • The ports should be smart enough to not take the full voltage. I've already seen a few folks fry their expensive phones by plugging in the wrong USB C cable.

      The problem is bad cables. I don't know why the USBIF is allowing so many manufacturers to call their cables "USB type C" when they don't comply with the specifications. Avoid buying bad cables and everything will be fine. On Amazon, look for Benson Leung's reviews.

    • Until they solve that problem, it isn't ready for the mainstream

      It's all part of the USB-PD standard. Problem was solved in inception. Don't buy $5 electronics which don't follow standards.

  • I bought a nice laptop with a USB-C port replicator. Didn't work worth a damn under Windows 10 (kept disconnecting-reconnecting every few seconds).

    Installed Fedora and it has worked perfectly ever since.

  • We will get there eventually.
    How about having a reasonable number of USBX ports?
    Every computer should have at least 4 imho.

    Sure I could use a hub but that's not the point.

  • I'm not sure if the excuse works as the connector is going for almost every new smartphone/tablet/laptop released these days, but I have to agree with Microsoft (even though I think the Windows 10 S is an incredibly stupid idea) on this one.

    USB Implementers Forum not only failed all my expectations, they managed to make me see USB Type C as worse than regular USB. It had the potential to fix all the problems of USB and make it even better, but somehow they managed to make it worse.

    Ok, the connector is small

    • The supply doesn't force it's rated power and cause the load to fry. The supply only produces enough power to supply what the load consumes. Circuits will only fry if they are poorly designed.

  • Surely the adapters are only an issue until all the major players get on board with USB-C?! Odd comment from Microsoft...
  • Bill Gates said that TCP/IP would never go mainstream. Microsoft's crystal ball is cloudy and needs polishing.
  • by hipp5 ( 1635263 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2017 @08:20AM (#54391357)

    My big problem with USB-C is that there is a ton of confusion about what it actually is.

    USB-C is always sold as "super fast", "allows high-wattage, bi-drectional charging", "high data volume for video and the like", etc. etc. But USB-C is just a connector format. So I bought a motherboard with a USB-C port thinking I was getting all these great benefits, only to realize that the port I got was USB 3.0/USB 3.1 Gen 1 (what bozo decided that the confusing renaming of 3.0 to 3.1 Gen 1 was a good idea???), no better than the other 3.0 ports I had always had.

    And this confusion happened to me, someone who is very technically-inclined. Even a ton of the tech sites I read when trying to sort this issue out conflate USB-C (the connector) with USB 3.1 Gen 2 (the spec). How is the general public supposed to figure this out?

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