Mystery port on the new MacBooks: Dock? Snack drawer? Band-aid?

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By now you must all have seen the Chinese MacBook body spy shots, generally agreed upon by the internets as being genuine. The shot above has generated a flurry of speculation as to what that little taped-up port could possibly be.

I think the idea of a dock-display is interesting but ultimately kind of fanciful. It would heat up like crazy, and the display would be quite difficult to engineer (not to say impossible, but possibly in the “eh, never mind” realm of difficulty), not to mention expensive as hell. Furthermore, all the ports are on the left-hand side. That leaves a “docking” solution three options to make those ports available to the user:

  • Have all the ports connect inside the dock to extenders — male ports connected to female ports on the exterior of the monitor. Verdict: no way, a single crooked pin and the whole interface is borked. Alignment would be hard as a mofo.
  • Have the ports “pass through” — i.e. the dock slot is open on both sides. Verdict: not likely, it’d be ugly first of all, and second, ergonomically it’s bad to have people pushing on the side that is docked.
  • Have ports on the dock/monitor and pass the information through just the dock connector. Verdict: no chance, the connector is barely big enough to pass all the display information through, to say nothing of powered USB, Expresscard data and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, here — it’d definitely be cool; I just don’t see a way they can make it work.

Personally, I’m in the camp of those who think it’s just a piece of tape. It’s ergonomical suicide, they say, to have anything coming out of the laptop so far towards the front (and I agree). So, lacking an obvious answer and dismissing the dock idea as pie in the sky, take a close look at it. Doesn’t it actually look like something taped on, not over? Like a little RFID security tag, or just a little pad that might be stuck on to prevent rubbing during transport? At any rate, we’ll find out Tuesday.

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