Phil Schiller Likens Ports to the Floppy Drive

My favorite moment from John Gruber’s excellent interview was when Schiller likened the single port MacBook to killing off the floppy.

…why don’t we design a product that’s around this wireless world that has really no physical connection that you need. You can get by without ever needing that. Wouldn’t that be a better world? And in doing that we realized ‘yeah but we do need to charge it so let’s go create this one port that can charge, and be a USB, and be video out. And that way if you need to connect, you can, you’re not giving that up’…and if you do that how far can you push it? How thin can it get? How light can it get? How aggressive of a design can it be?

…I mean this is all the same mentality as I remember when we took out the floppy… oh and I am sure many you all do too. It’s the exact same thinking. I sat in the rooms with friends of mine who worked at other companies in Texas and other places and they literally said ‘Oh my god. I am so jealous! We can’t do that. We can’t do that. We can’t take the risk, because if the world is going to be risk averse and doesn’t want us to take away anything, then y’know if Dell doesn’t have a floppy, but Toshiba does, they’ll just buy the Toshiba. They’re all the same, except if your missing one thing then no one will buy your stuff.’ … That’s the embodiment of this new MacBook, which is take a bold risk. Maybe some people will think it’s not perfect for them yet, but for a surprising number of people it’s already their future laptop.

I think Phil is spot on and his anecdote, as dated as it is, perfectly illustrates how a commoditized hardware market evolves to avoid risk by simply increasing specs while avoiding change. For a current example, just look at the continued ubiquity of the 28 year old VGA port on modern PC laptops.