One power cord to rule them all: Standards group pushes for universal laptop charger

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A Switzerland-based standards group wants to stop the madness of having a different charger for every laptop, and will publish a technical specification for universal laptop chargers early next year.

The specification from the International Electrotechnical Commission will cover “a wide range of notebook computers and laptops,” and defines elements such as the connector plug, safety and environmental considerations, according to a press release.

IEC already deserves some credit for its role in defining a standard for mobile phones two years ago, but that effort was largely assisted by the prevalence of Micro-USB connectors in smartphones.

Creating a standard for laptop chargers could be trickier. Today’s laptop chargers come in all shapes and sizes, and cater to a wide range of power requirements. Case in point: HP’s Chromebook 11 uses a Micro-USB charger, but this solution would be impractical for more powerful laptops with bigger batteries.

The USB Implementers forum is working on its own specification, called USB Power Delivery, that could provide up to 100 watts from a power outlet to a laptop’s USB port. But IEC makes no mention of this effort.

Laptop makers have good reason to embrace a universal charging standard. In addition to being better for the environment while reducing headaches for users, it could also cut manufacturing costs if companies no longer need to include a charger with every laptop. But on the other hand, proprietary power cord replacements are a source of revenue for many PC manufacturers. Hopefully groups can work together on a speedy solution, one that doesn’t just end up in more conflicting standards.

Lead image: zim2411 via Flickr/Creative Commons

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