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Apple exploring all-in-one MagSafe power and data connector

post #1 of 49
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Apple could add an optical signal path to future MagSafe connectors on Macs, allowing the magnetic port to send and receive data, as well as power the device.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple named "Magnetic Connector with Optical Signal Path." Discovered by AppleInsider, the document describes a single cable that would provide both power and data to a mobile device, like a MacBook Pro, using a single cable.

Like Apple's existing, patented MagSafe adapters, the new cable would allow for "easy disengagement" due to the use of magnets to attach and properly secure the cable.

Apple's application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement. The first is the need for a power source, since modern batteries often cannot get through an entire workday, while the second is the ability to transfer data over a physical connection.

"Presently, satisfying these two requires at least two connections to the mobile device; one for power and one for data transmission," the application reads. "But including two (or more) connectors increases cost and consume space, typically along the side of the mobile device. It also requires the user to make two separate connections, thus limiting the usefulness and desirability of the mobile computing format."



Apple's filing also notes that the use of two cables can clutter a user's workspace and degrade the mobile computing experience. More cables also increase the likelihood of a user tripping over one and potentially damaging their computer.

"Thus, what is needed are circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a power and data transfer system that can supply both power and data to a laptop or other mobile computing device," the application states.

Apple's solution would include a fiber optic line inside a connector that looks much like the existing MagSafe power connector found on its line of MacBooks. But it would include additional "pins" inside the connector to allow data transfer for multiple types of inputs.

Potential input methods listed by Apple include USB, fiber-optic, local area networking (LAN) cables, DVI video, and DisplayPort. Corresponding connectors for these devices would be included on the power and data adapter.

In addition, Apple's proposed invention would allow separate external devices to communicate with one another via the power and data adapter. For example, two or more USB devices could communicate with each other and transfer data between one another over the adapter.



Like a similar patent awarded to Apple last fall, the application revealed this week could offer a glimpse into the company's potential plans with Intel's high-speed Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel aims to offer mobile devices bandwidth of 10Gbps, scaling up to 100GBps over the next decade, with its next-generation cable.

Apple has shown great interest in Light Peak and has been "pushing" the chipmaker to bring it to market. Light Peak would allow Apple to roll networking, display, and peripheral cables all into one master cable, much like is described in the latest patent application.
post #2 of 49
I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.
post #3 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.

Good luck on doing anything at all on Chrome OS then.

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post #4 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.

Why are you here?

Nothing more annoying than "fandroids" pretending to be mac enthusiasts on forums.
post #5 of 49
You go all that trouble to create a single connector, then have two cables out going in different directions to different sources? One data, one power?

The data brick as pictured would have to have some sort of power source of its own, so why not a single cable from brick to connector?

What are you going to do with the integrated data cable when you unplug and leave the desk? You still need the power cable attached to the transformer.

This could be simplified at a single stroke. Have the data/power brick with its own combo data/power cable to connect to the computer that stays on the desk. A separate power only cable/transformer that you take with you.
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.


Peripheral makers adopt Light Peak, there will need to be some sort of adaptive interface. No matter who does it. If you are using cable connections, there still has to be a cable from each device and all the clutter which comes with that.
post #7 of 49
Would love to see this. It also has the feature that I have been hanging out to see on data connectors for so long that you can plug it in any which way. That is upside down aswell.

USB and FireWire (and especially firewire 800) connectors are such a pain in the ass to plug in, you're guaranteed to try and plug it in upside down almost 50% of the time! Should be simple, but how many times do you get it wrong?

Can they send data bi-directionally with only one light pipe? I guess so, given that the light is shone in a particular direction from each end.
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post #8 of 49
More proprietary cables... Can anyone tell me how the proprietary iPod/iPhone cable benefits consumers more than a standard USB cable would?

And isn't having this kind of double cable somewhat anti-apple? I mean, when you don't have a USB device plugged in you've still got this loos cable flapping around? I think a more apple-like solution would be to eliminate all USB/Firewire connectivity to save space and promote MobileMe backups/cloud services...
post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

More proprietary cables... Can anyone tell me how the proprietary iPod/iPhone cable benefits consumers more than a standard USB cable would?

And isn't having this kind of double cable somewhat anti-apple? I mean, when you don't have a USB device plugged in you've still got this loos cable flapping around? I think a more apple-like solution would be to eliminate all USB/Firewire connectivity to save space and promote MobileMe backups/cloud services...

Light peak is supposed to be marketed as the do anything/everything cabling system that (hopefully) replaces all the others. It's not supposed to be exclusive/proprietary but introduced as a new industry standard.


Someone has to take the first step of actually using it.
post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

More proprietary cables... Can anyone tell me how the proprietary iPod/iPhone cable benefits consumers more than a standard USB cable would?

And isn't having this kind of double cable somewhat anti-apple? I mean, when you don't have a USB device plugged in you've still got this loos cable flapping around? I think a more apple-like solution would be to eliminate all USB/Firewire connectivity to save space and promote MobileMe backups/cloud services...

The iPod cable (30pin) supplies power, data, analog audio, video, and more (for 3rd party peripherals).
post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post

You go all that trouble to create a single connector, then have two cables out going in different directions to different sources? One data, one power?

The data brick as pictured would have to have some sort of power source of its own, so why not a single cable from brick to connector?

Agreed. An aTV sized box with USB, FireWire, DisplayPort, etc. with a MagSafe & Light Peak combined cable would be the better way to go.

But a portable device (laptop at least) also needs "normal" connectivity built in - headphone jack, USB, ethernet. What's the point of having a laptop if you also HAVE to carry around this connectivity dongle? Yes, it could be the power brick, but there are times you need/want to plug things in without bothering with the power brick.

- Jasen.
post #12 of 49
This isn't Apple technology, it's Intel technology. You can bet Intel won't make Light Peak Apple-only so stop the worrying about that. 10Gbit/s is tasty! It would solve a problem that has half stopped me investing in an Apple Display. I use Firewire800 drives and couldn't leave them connected to the display and only use the one data cable as things stand. I'd be limited to 400Mbit/s (not sure if the Apple Display even has a FW800 input).

Anyway, I think it should be pointed out that the article incorrectly states the speeds involved. It's GigaBITS per second not GigaBYTES. Out by a factor of 8. It doesn't help that the B is capitalised and then not capitalised in the same sentence at the end of the article. It might seem picky, but it's a different unit and we're geeks here!

I fear that Light Peak might have stiff competition from USB3. Many PC manufacturers aren't exactly known for innovation and I think they'll stick to the safe again. FW is claimed to be superior to USB but USB clearly won that war. We need faster speeds from cables, it'll be interesting to see who wins the next race.
post #13 of 49
I hope they do this. Still, they should not have a patent on it. Magsafe (unless there was prior art) SHOULD be patentable because as far as I know it was not done before.

The addition of fiber or data to power is not new. Both fiber and power combined and power and data combined have been used in aircraft, computing and telecomunications.
There is plenty of prior art out there for power/data/optical configurations out there.
post #14 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonamac View Post

FW is claimed to be superior to USB but USB clearly won that war. We need faster speeds from cables, it'll be interesting to see who wins the next race.

FW is technically superior. But it lost the marketing war and hasn't been advanced for lack of market support. There was a FW 3200 developed quite some time ago. It's never been sold.
post #15 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Outsider View Post

The iPod cable (30pin) supplies power, data, analog audio, video, and more (for 3rd party peripherals).

USB can provide all of those things except analog audio, which is anyways provided by the headphone jack on an ipod or iphone. Cowon and iRiver both use microUSB for their connections (Cowon adds mini HDMI for it's 1080p products), and it makes life simpler. Forgetting a proprietary cable at home is not as troublesome as forgetting a USB cable at home, for example.

The iPod cable seems to be a way of squeezing extra money out of people who have to pay for docks/"connection kits" when a simple USB cable could provide basically all of the same functionality.

What would be great would be a patent-free universal cable that delivers power, high digital throughput, and a few channels of analogue. My office has about 12 different kinds of cables connecting various pieces of equipment to each other and/or the wall. How about some streamlining?
post #16 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Outsider View Post

The iPod cable (30pin) supplies power, data, analog audio, video, and more (for 3rd party peripherals).

True, but it's a rare person who connects it to anything other than USB, and most third party vendors use the audio port instead.
post #17 of 49
Like many others have said:

I like the fact that I can take my computer with me to a meeting or something and leave the powerbrick at my office, hence the portable computer.

Imagine this scenorio:
Can I copy the files from your computer to my usb-stick?
No, I left my powerbrick at my desk..
_____

My thinking is that this is researched as some kind of docking station, Apple style. Sold as an accessory.

Hopefully the ports on the computer stays the same.
post #18 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lukeskymac View Post

Good luck on doing anything at all on Chrome OS then.

I don't understand why people say they are "switching to Chrome OS". It's not even out yet for general consumption. You can only get it if you request one of their beta laptops.
post #19 of 49
Most business-oriented laptops call this concept a docking station.
post #20 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by veblen View Post

I don't understand why people say they are "switching to Chrome OS". It's not even out yet for general consumption. You can only get it if you request one of their beta laptops.

I think people are claiming it to be their next OS because it is not Apple or MS. However, Chrome OS is a very limited system at the moment. I don't know why these people aren't saying they'll jump to Linux (Ubuntu/Mint, openSuSe, Fedora, etc...) instead of the Chrome OS. Its cool, but not THAT cool yet.
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post #21 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.

Bit of a drama queen, aren't you? First off, there's no point in getting too caught up in stuff like this. Apple researches all manner of things as I imagine most other companies do. It would be a pretty crazy company with some strange and interesting products if they actually followed through with most of their patents.

As for whatever cable comes along, if it is far superior to alternative choices that's great. If it serves an important dedicated purpose that's great. Otherwise Apple doesn't tend to bother with it. And the cost? If you're worried about spending maybe another $4 on a cable then you're not a Mac user anywayyou can save a lot more building your own PC or buying bargain basement hardware and running Linux.
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post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.


Or good riddance I guess.

A perfunctory review of the suggested application diagram shows that they propose splitting the data cable out past the connector junction in order to provide a universal adaptor for data connections. It doesn't address concerns expressed above for having those same connections for the more backward and connectivity challenged sites or meetings where either WiFi or Bluetooth could otherwise be used.

The upside of this designwise is to eliminate separate on-board data connections and controllers which frees up space for larger battery and increases flexibility around logic board configuration - especially good for laptops as Apple tries to make them as light and powerful as possible. Fewer data connections on the board reduces fail-points for the hardware as well.
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post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonamac View Post

FW is claimed to be superior to USB but USB clearly won that war.

FW is useful for more than just USB-style data transfers. Anyone who needs a quality audio interface almost certainly is still using FireWire, as that's where the deficiencies in USB show up.

OTOH, if you just need a connection to an external drive, then USB 2 or USB 3 will probably more than meet your needs (and inexpensive external USB 3 drives are available today).

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post #24 of 49
The article says "Apple's application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement."

What happens when that notebook is to serve just as a notebook?

If in that notebook I just got the new supercompactconnector, how am I using the likes of pendrives or videoprojectors, just to name two common laptop peripherals?

Shoud I have a special Apple-priced adapter for each standard port I need (one usb, one fw, one vga, one eth, etc.)?

Mmmm, let's count: DB15-VGA, AAUI-10baseT, HDI30-SCSI, miniDVI-DVI, miniDP-DVI, miniDV-VGA, usb-eth, etc.

Fantastic, my collection of special Apple-priced adapters is going to grow... if I ever buy that notebook...

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post #25 of 49
With the ubiquity of Wi-Fi I rarely even think about a hard wire data connection to my devices anymore let alone use one. The problem of too many cables has already been solved.
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post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary54 View Post

You go all that trouble to create a single connector, then have two cables out going in different directions to different sources? One data, one power?

The data brick as pictured would have to have some sort of power source of its own, so why not a single cable from brick to connector?

What are you going to do with the integrated data cable when you unplug and leave the desk? You still need the power cable attached to the transformer.

This could be simplified at a single stroke. Have the data/power brick with its own combo data/power cable to connect to the computer that stays on the desk. A separate power only cable/transformer that you take with you.

If you imagine that box in the diagram is the current Apple monitor then it makes sense.

Currently you bring your laptop into the office and connect to three cables, the monitor acts as a USB hub, speaker system etc. With this invention, it would be a single magsafe connector, so Apple would have finally created a laptop dock in a way, except it would be far better than a laptop dock.

There would probably be an optional "box" that you could add to the cable on the road to do the same thing (in other words the box part would likely be detachable). So when you are on the road it would look almost identical to the way it is now, a simple power connector. When you plug into your apple monitor though, it would give you all the connectivity.

Sounds great to me.
post #27 of 49
Combining power/data connections is a really bad idea. There are plenty of times (daily) where I plug/unplug my laptop from power, but want to keep data devices connected, and vice-versa. If you merge the two, then people end up having to buy/carry a ton of friggin adapters.

A better alternative would be a compound connector, where a unified power/data cable could connect, but power and data could also be connected separately. Great for throwing a laptop in a "dock" at home, but then having flexibility on the road - such as giving a presentation while running on battery power - only need the data connection.

A compound connector could look something like this: |....||..|
post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

I thought that was designed to replace USB and also deliver power (to peripherals).

So if Apple are going to create their own data transfer cable, will they license it as a standard, as they have done with Quicktime? Or are we once again going to have to spend extra dollar on Apple only cables and peripherals, like those in the iDevice ecosystem?

If so, I'm abandoning OS X and iOS and going 100% Android and Chrome, so I can save money.

Why are you even here if your mission is to save money? I wouldn't be in the BMW store if I wanted to save on a car buy....
post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by rivertrip View Post

True, but it's a rare person who connects it to anything other than USB, and most third party vendors use the audio port instead.

So all those ipod speaker dock/radios/alarm clocks by the likes of iHome, JBL, Bose, Sony, Philips, Logitech, etc. are a figment of my imagination then?

Thanks for clearing that up.
post #30 of 49
Folk, this is apples concept for a docking station for Laptops. This was one of the big complaint that people had when the new iBooks came out with all the connectors on the side there was no real way to make some sort of home/work docking stations.

This is not a product for everyone since some people do not hook up their laptops to full size monitors and keyboards all the time.

I would use this since I do like having the ability to dock without having to connect all sorts of cables, this solution is very clear in my mind since you could hide the dock under a desk if you like.
post #31 of 49
I highly doubt this would eliminate onboard connections. As someone said in a previous post, this would be a dock connection to a piece of hardware that stays stationary. The box would be a USB, FireWire, Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort, Audio Optical/Analog In and Out ports and power built into 1 unit and only requires 1 connection wire to connect to the MacBook. As of now, it's a spaghetti configuration compared to the usual docking stations in the PC world.

Oh, And they can charge 200+ for this unit. Anything Sony and Lenovo offers as a docking station are around the $200 price point. Just saying before people complain this will cost too much for a docking unit.
post #32 of 49
There are advantages and disadvantages to this setup.

Magsafe is designed so that when you trip over the cable, nothing gets damaged. This setup will pull your peripherals down with the cable. If those peripherals were plugged in directly, they would be ok.

However, they are going to have to remove firewire and ethernet from the MBPs so this is one way they can support those formats on the laptops. I suspect USB 3 would be capable enough but optical is faster than all of them and acts as a dock with a single cable.

I don't think Apple would sell this alone but they can sell it as an additional adaptor or just additional cable that slots onto the main plug. This way you can leave it at home and switch the plugs.
post #33 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

However, they are going to have to remove firewire and ethernet from the MBPs so this is one way they can support those formats on the laptops. I suspect USB 3 would be capable enough but optical is faster than all of them and acts as a dock with a single cable.

Did I miss a memo? Why does Apple have to remove FW and Ethernet from the MBPs?
post #34 of 49
How is this "intention" really different from any other cable that sends both power and data, like USB and Firewire?
post #35 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

USB can provide all of those things except analog audio, which is anyways provided by the headphone jack on an ipod or iphone. Cowon and iRiver both use microUSB for their connections (Cowon adds mini HDMI for it's 1080p products), and it makes life simpler. Forgetting a proprietary cable at home is not as troublesome as forgetting a USB cable at home, for example.

The iPod cable seems to be a way of squeezing extra money out of people who have to pay for docks/"connection kits" when a simple USB cable could provide basically all of the same functionality.

What would be great would be a patent-free universal cable that delivers power, high digital throughput, and a few channels of analogue. My office has about 12 different kinds of cables connecting various pieces of equipment to each other and/or the wall. How about some streamlining?

I disagree. I find that there are far more iPod cables out in the wild than USB cables. Most hotels now have iPod docks in their alarm clocks, TVs, etc... Same with car stereos, and other devices. When you do find a device with USB, the problem is that there isn't a standard outside of Apple for actually driving the device or having an interface on the device. So at best, you get power.

Now if you think 2 cables to connect, one for power, one for audio, and no ability to drive the device is "simpler" then I see where you're coming from, but really the iPod cable is superior to USB.

Also keep in mind that the iPod cable has a history behind it, and it's legacy issues that result in what it is today.
post #36 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonamac View Post

I fear that Light Peak might have stiff competition from USB3. Many PC manufacturers aren't exactly known for innovation and I think they'll stick to the safe again. FW is claimed to be superior to USB but USB clearly won that war. We need faster speeds from cables, it'll be interesting to see who wins the next race.

I don't see it as USB having won the war over FireWire. Virtually every video camera that could send a live stream out, used FireWire. Can you name one (other than webcam quality) that used USB?

They both had their functions. FireWire was needed where high speed mattered, and USB was a suitable alternative where cost was the factor. Since USB made much more sense for keyboards, mice, card readers, etc... and since it always maintained backwards compatibility, it gained even more relevancy as it reiterated up to 2.0. Meanwhile, video cameras have transitioned away from tape, and unless it's live production, live streaming over FireWire isn't required.

TL;DR: FireWire was niche to begin with even though it filled a gap that was better suited for most people by what USB would eventually become.

Also it's hard to have a format war when both formats are supported by Apple. Apple was a lead in the development of FireWire and Apple was a lead in the adoption of USB.

As far as USB3 versus Light Peak, keep in mind that you can run USB over Light Peak. It won't be a war. Ivy Bridge will address protocol support in the chip.
post #37 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonamac View Post

This isn't Apple technology, it's Intel technology. You can bet Intel won't make Light Peak Apple-only so stop the worrying about that. 10Gbit/s is tasty! It would solve a problem that has half stopped me investing in an Apple Display. I use Firewire800 drives and couldn't leave them connected to the display and only use the one data cable as things stand. I'd be limited to 400Mbit/s (not sure if the Apple Display even has a FW800 input).

Anyway, I think it should be pointed out that the article incorrectly states the speeds involved. It's GigaBITS per second not GigaBYTES. Out by a factor of 8. It doesn't help that the B is capitalised and then not capitalised in the same sentence at the end of the article. It might seem picky, but it's a different unit and we're geeks here!

I fear that Light Peak might have stiff competition from USB3. Many PC manufacturers aren't exactly known for innovation and I think they'll stick to the safe again. FW is claimed to be superior to USB but USB clearly won that war. We need faster speeds from cables, it'll be interesting to see who wins the next race.

Won? How? I can still buy all the FW peripherals I want and connect to my Macs. I don't care one bit what Dell/HP and Windoze fans are doing....

Have a work laptop here with a USB3 drive attached btw. Not one bit faster than FW800 is on my mac at home....real numbers, not benchmarks.
post #38 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by SSquirrel View Post

Did I miss a memo? Why does Apple have to remove FW and Ethernet from the MBPs?

Because of the height:



This is the height they will aim for in all their machines:



The only ports stopping them are FW800 and ethernet and of course the optical drive. They could just get rid of ethernet for now and then move FW back and taper it from a larger height for now until we definitely get faster ports to replace FW but the proposed cable seems like a decent solution for everything except using the devices while out and about.
post #39 of 49
So I'd like to imagine that Apple could use this as a docking solution, as has been mentioned. No need to take all the discrete ports off the MacBooks, but a single magsafe connector at your desktop gives you power, monitor, keyboard, external storage and peripherals.

Not sure how such a thing would interact with the iOS devices (outside of the ATV, for which an off-the-device port cluster would be useful for media console installations). Overlapping utility with the dock connector doesn't sound very Apple like.
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post #40 of 49
Brilliant for a dock connector, but it's not subsitute for a sole general data connection on the laptop side of things. I would however think it rather cool if, for example, MBP's came with a magsafe connector on both sides of the case and either could be used for power+data or just data. (the data being light peak).

From what I've seen no one has proposed any particular connector yet for LightPeak, nor a specific method for LP carrying power. MagSafe would seem an an ideal solution (IMHO) to both lingering questions in regards to implementing LP. Of course it would necessitate Apple licensing MagSafe to all 3rd parties. I could however see Apple licensing it for non-main-power only or such to continue to protect their control over power supplies (just a note to those that think the PSU restriction is BS, bad 3rd party power supplies DO dry computers and batteries which still could be under AppleCare, so I don't think it's all THAT bad of a restriction even though I just bought 2 more refurb 85W MBP PSUs for my laptops).
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