Apple’s next dock connector
Apple will eventually need to upgrade its dock connector. The prime candidate is Thunderbolt , because it is fast and carries enough power even for charging iPads. It has been designed with mobile applications in mind. But there is one problem: If Apple migrates its iOS devices to a Thunderbolt connector, how are PCs and older Macs to sync with them? A patent that has recently been granted  to Apple sketches a solution.
The patent describes a dock connector that works for both DisplayPort and USB 3. That means that for connecting to an iOS device, you could use either one of two cables: On one side there would be the new dock connector (in both cases), on the other side, there would be either a DisplayPort plug or a USB 3 plug. The same two options would be available for the cable coming out of a dock.
- DisplayPort is probably code for Thunderbolt which hadn’t been announced when Apple applied for the patent. Thunderbolt support would give Apple fast syncing, ample power, and DisplayPort compatibility.
- USB 3 takes care of three problems:
- Modern PCs with USB 3 will get fast sync speeds.
- Older Macs and PCs with USB 2 will still work, because USB 3 is compatible with USB 2.
- USB adapters will be easy to create for iOS devices. I am not a fan of adapters, but that is how things work with Apple.
- Apple might still surprise us with the actual shape of the plug. For example, making it smaller than the current dock connector would make a lot of sense.
- USB 3 on Macs in 2012 : Might never happen (similar to Blu-Ray). With Thunderbolt, the need to support USB 3 goes mostly away. If you are desperate, there will be adapters.
- “Although the patent illustrates an iPod as being one of the first to adopt this, the patent clarifies that it's for all future Mac hardware as well.”  This connector appearing on Macs is not likely. I suspect that Apple is just covering its bases here.
- Apple Wins Patent for All-New Hybrid DisplayPort/USB 3.0 Connector [via MacRumors]
- Thunderbolt (code-named Light Peak): an overview