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Laptop docks are suddenly obsolete

It’s always interesting to observe when a piece of technology suddenly becomes obsolete. As of this morning, we can add the laptop dock to that list.

Laptop dock

One of the pains of laptop ownership is dealing with cables. When I sit down in the morning, I connect my laptop to the power outlet, an external monitor, and my keyboard. Many laptop makers address this problem with a peripheral like the one above. All of your cables plug into a dock. To use them, you just slide your laptop onto the dock. Some have custom proprietary dock connectors, in other cases, the dock actually connects to all of the individual ports on the laptop.

Apple is taking a different approach. They’ve added all of the ports you’ll normally use to their new generation of displays, and they use a Thunderbolt cable to handle the communication for all of those ports using a single cable. To connect, you just plug in the Thunderbolt cable and the power cable from the monitor. You can even daisy chain multiple monitors through a single Thunderbolt connection.

From what I’ve read, USB3 will provide similar capabilities in terms of letting users connect multiple, high-bandwidth peripherals through a single port. I would predict that we’d see lots of companies migrate toward offering monitors that act as full-featured docking stations for laptops, but I’m not so sure. Other companies don’t seem to be as interested in making the monitor a hub for laptops as Apple is. One thing’s for sure, conveniences like this help explain why people will pay $999 for an Apple monitor rather than $300 to $500 for a similar display from other companies.

9 Comments

  1. When I saw the headline, I thought it was going to be about the (not so new) Toshiba wireless Dynadock or the brand new Samsung Central station.

    Neither requires a Mac, by the way.

  2. http://techreport.com/discussions.x/21204 Sony introduced a unique laptop with Light Peak connection and dock which has graphic card on it.

  3. I love products like the Sony dock. I’ve always been fascinated by docks that do more than just provide port replication.

  4. Apple stopped making laptop docks over 15 years ago. They make iPad docks, iPhone docks, and iPad docks, but they never made a MacBook dock.

    How come they are now more obsolete than before? Tell the rest of the story!

  5. Yes, Apple has been out of the dock business forever, but they seem to persist with other laptop makers. I think that given the advanced sorts of cables we’re seeing now (Thunderbolt and USB3), we’ll see those interfaces completely overtake docks soon enough.

  6. Not to mention the fact that the Apple displays are freaking gorgeous. I hate having to sift through page after page of monitor to find one that has reasonable specs.

  7. Your point is well taken about the new Cinema Display. I was also struck by the dock-like capabilities of the new version.

    It’s true Apple had given up on docks since the ancient PowerBook Duo, but now with the MacBook Airs pushing limits on portability, I think it makes a lot of sense for them to apply the company’s design ethic to the dock problem.

    Only down side at this point is cost. Will many Air customers pony up $1k for a high end docking display? Seems questionable. And the display’s dock capabilities seem less compelling for MacBook Pro owners.

  8. Any other display of this quality level costs as much or more. Check the Dell 27 inch Ultrasharp which is the same but has iffy quality or the NEC which costs hundreds more.

  9. I thought they would soon be obsolete when the PCI-E external connectors were first announced, but that was obviously too optimistic.

    Both Sony’s and Apple’s new connectors (well, old connectors, different protocol) are of course PCI-E based, but if everyone will be mixing Light Peak with their own choice of connector (imagine Dell or HP producing a Firewire/LightPeak combo) we won’t be much better of than before with the purely proprietary docks…

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