Apple's Big Mistake on the MacBook Is Wrong Wireless

March 18, 2015
By: Doug Mohney

The newer, lighter, shinier, thinner MacBook released by Apple (News - Alert) last week has a couple of serious flaws.  No doubt Apple believes that limiting the new laptop to a single USB-C port for charging and peripheral devices is acceptable with Bluetooth and various flavors of Wi-Fi on board, but the company should have put in one new fangled piece of tech.  Instead, the device is handicapped and it shouldn't be.

USB-C is great and wonderful, but it represents a bottleneck.  Too many people will want to both charge and hook up external devices at the same time, say maybe hook up a large monitor while sitting at a desk, something crazy and unconventional (NOT) like that. 

Apple's solution to the single USB-C is to substitute an inelegant (and additional) set of breakout cables that Jony Ives should be flogged with.  Design should not solely focus on or end at the device, but include thinking through what the user will do beyond simply carrying around the device from point-to-point. 

I suspect in a few months, Apple and third-parties will introduce the USB-C docking station, which will work some sort of magic to enable the connection/daisy-chaining of multiple USB devices, video support, and power at the same time. I'm no high-paid Apple designer, but I could have told you that having a docking station would be a necessity if you were putting all your ports in one.

Wireless is supposed to be the solution to a single USB-C port, enabling users to connect relatively low bit-rate devices, such as keyboards, via Bluetooth while networking, external monitors, and the like would go through 802.11ac, with backwards compatibility for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz modes.  With the right (newest version) AC router, you might be able to pull speeds between 600 Mbps to 2.6 GHz, depending on the number of radios, antennas, and other RF magic you have packed into both laptop and router, plus whatever else is broadcasting at the same time.

Apple should have gone outside the box, like it did with USB-C, by adopting 60 GHz WiGig.   Also known as 802.11ad, WiGig has plenty of free RF space and goes up to 7 Gbps.  WiGig can easily support any in-room device at speeds sufficient to support just about anything, with enough left over to do multi-gigabit file transfers for video and device backups.  Embedding WiGig would also allow Apple to claim a heads-up on working with so-called 5G technologies which will merge 60 GHz and other Wi-Fi tech with licensed cellular technologies. 

WiGig has been kicking around since 2013, with Dell (News - Alert) first implementing chips into laptop/wireless dock combos.  Samsung has made some proof-of-concept announcements using 60 GHz, but it isn't clear if its tech is compatible with WiGig.

If Apple had embraced WiGig as a part of its latest MacBook, it could have introduced a high-speed, energy efficient alternative to 802.11ac, deflecting the raft of criticism from putting in a single USB-C port.  With WiGig, the company could have honestly said it only needed a single USB-C port, with the 60 GHz technology providing gigabit local connectivity for display and storage,  leaving the C port free for charging.




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino