Monday, 22 September 2008

"SmartBrick" - Apple's one-cable MagSafe port replicator

Speculative excerpt from Steve's October 14 keynote (inspired by 9 to 5 Mac's mysterious brick post):

These new Macbook Pros are so portable that they really are desktop replacements. And we know that more and more of our pro customers are choosing to use them instead of a tower. The great thing with that is that at the end of the day, you can just pick up your desktop computer and take it home with you. And then you can work from home with all your pro apps right there. Whether you're editing in Final Cut, or doing some retouching in Photoshop. It's all right there where you left it.

But there's one problem with all this.

The cables.

If you're a creative professional, you probably have a whole heap of things connected to your laptop. You've got USB devices, gigabit ethernet, external monitors... That's a lot to keep plugging and unplugging every time you want to leave the office. In fact, it can really make you feel like you're chained to your desk.

Now our competitors have had a go at solving this problem, but we don't think that they've done a very good job of it, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about if you've ever tried to use one of these "docks" or "port replicators." They replace lots of easy plugs with one very difficult plug - not much of a time saver.

So we wanted to do something about this problem. And we thought - "what if there was just one cable that does everything". Now we've managed to get rid of a lot of cables over the years. Thanks to Airport and Bluetooth, we don't need to use cables for keyboards, mice and networking any more. But there's one cable that we're maybe never going to get rid of - the power cable. So that's where we started. We wanted to find some way to get everything you need to go through that one cable. But how can we do this?

The answer is in the brick. Now we've never liked power bricks. That's why we're always looking for ways to hide them. Like the way we made the iPod charge through the same USB cable that you use to sync with your Mac or PC. But now, we realized that there was a whole lot more that we could do with these things. So today, and I'm very please to introduce you to a smarter breed of power brick - the SmartBrick.

So what makes it smart?

First, we've added a USB hub. So that you can plug all your USB devices into the brick. The USB signal then travels into your Mac right alongside the power. That way, we've got rid of a lot of cables already.

Next up is gigabit ethernet. For most of us mere mortals, Airport Extreme is plenty fast enough, but for our pro customers, who are handling these huge media files, Airport doesn't always cut it. They need gigabit networking. So that's exactly what we've built into our brick. And again, it travels right down the power cable. Plus, the other neat thing about this is that it works great with TimeCapsule. If you have loads of big files on your MacBook, it can take a long time for TimeCapsule to back them up wirelessly. But if you hook your TimeCapsule up directly to the brick, backups are done in no time, whilst you're recharging.

And finally, there's video. Again, for us mere mortals, one screen is usually enough. But if you're going to do things like editing video, you may want an extra external screen. And these DVI connectors are not easy to plug and unplug. You've got to do lots of screwing and unscrewing every time you want to clock-off for the evening. So with our SmartBrick, going home just got a whole heap easier. It's as easy as pulling out our patented Magsafe connector. Just give it a tug and you're done.

What's interesting about these bricks is that we've found a lot of our pro customers already buy a spare brick, so that they don't have to lug it home with them every night. They have one brick hooked up to their desk at home, and another all ready to go when they get into work. Well now, this gets even better. With two SmartBricks, you'll never have to go through cable hell again.


  1. Isn't "brick" a negative word when it comes to computers? "Power brick" is something big and clumsy. To be "bricked" is not nice.

  2. This is the best guess yet on the "Brick" question posed by 9-5 Mac. I can totally identify with the problem of cables when going between work and home. Leave it to Apple to create the first elegant solution.

  3. A replaceable combo battery / power supply that slides into the back of the MB/MBpro would be nice. The kicker here would be a retractable cord on the power supply (built in to the MB / MBpro. Especially if the power (BRICK) is included inside next to the battery. A retractable cord can be small enough to contain. You NEVER have to carry a cord with you.

  4. So where the hell is it? Lots of talk and no product. Typical Apple.

  5. Moron! Blame Apple for a post by someone not affiliated with Apple, on a blog not affiliated with Apple, inspired by another article referencing a rumor tangentially related to an unrelated product announcement.

    ... damn Apple, never living up to our promises...