Will 2014 Become the Year of the Universal Laptop Charger?

Scott Calonico

laptop chargerEvery IT department has one: a box of miscellaneous power leads and adaptors.

The chances are that they will never be needed again, but it’s hard to throw them away. Murphy’s Law dictates that as soon as you do, you’ll need to use one of them for some long-forgotten laptop or device.

Plenty do get thrown away, however. In fact, the International Electrotechnical Commission [IEC] estimates that half a million tons of “charger related” waste is thrown away each year. This isn’t just the chargers and adaptors themselves – often devices are binned too when nobody can locate the lead with the right connector.

In recent years, the IEC has taken steps to reduce this waste by bringing in a universal standard for cellphone chargers. While some companies have willfully ignored it (Apple, we are looking at you), many other manufacturers have adopted the standard. This has resulted in a lot less waste and, let’s face it, a lot less frustration for users.

Now, the IEC have turned their attention to laptop chargers. This will be welcome news to anyone who has worked in the IT industry for any length of time.

Up to now, replacing laptop chargers has been something of a minefield. Most IT professionals will have spent time poring over complicated part numbers and voltage and ampere details. Once they’ve found all the details, they then have to try to source the correct part, often at great expense for the genuine article. The alternative is to buy a third-party part that may not work, or will arrive with a connector that’s just the wrong size!

With this in mind, the IEC’s plans to introduce a standard laptop power adaptor make perfect sense.

The charger will be available from early 2014, and it’s hoped that it will be as widely adopted as the equivalent adaptor for mobile phones.

Will it Work?

Obviously the success of the IEC Laptop adaptor depends on the enthusiasm of the laptop manufacturers.

Mobile phone chargers are small and inexpensive, whereas laptop PSUs are more significant parts, in terms of both size and cost. Vendors will have to decide whether they wish to put their environmental credentials in front of the revenue they can generate from selling additional PSUs to customers.

Going back to Apple as an example, it’s hard to imagine that they will adopt the standard over their own (admittedly innovative) MagSafe connectors. They make far too much money from the replacements.

However, we can hope that manufacturers of Windows laptops will adopt the standard quickly. It may finally give IT departments the ability to get rid of that every present “junk box” up the corner of the comms room.