Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cable Tangle

Need Freedom from mushrooming cables and connectors.

As mobile devices proliferate, so is the need to carry plethora of cables and connectors

Recently, I encountered a problem that many you might relate to. After a long day, I reached my car in the Chennai Airport parking lot and dipped my hand in to the backpack to retrieve my car key. You guessed it right, I couldn't find the key.. It had 'hidden' under the maze of cables and chargers. I had to literally empty my backpack on to the sidewalk to find the lonely key.

Cable Tangle
Stuff dumped on the road to find the key

That's when it stuck me, why am I carrying all that stuff.. A quick inventory made me realize that I need all of that stuff for my laptop, mobile phone, digital camera and MP3 player. Then I started wondering, if there can be standardization across the globe on telephone and electrical outlets , why not some standardization between various mobile devices?

Basically, the problem areas relates to three things: 1)Battery, 2)Charger & 3)connector. The are fundamentally different for each mobile device / manufacturer.

Battery: There is almost no commonality on this between the manufacturers on this front. I do realize that many companies use this as a differentiator in the market space, but wonder if the over all size and some parameters can be standardized. With in the broad guidelines, manufactures can do their stuff to differentiate. After all, we already have some commonality with AA, AAA, C & D batteries.

Chargers: While some devices allow you to charge via laptop, I find myself carrying separate chargers for each device just in case. It would be nice if I can carry just one charger and be able to 'plug N play' with all the gadgets in my backpack.

Added to this, backward compatibility is a problem as well. I recently bought a Nokia phone just so that I could use it with the chargers that are already in place at several vantage places at home, work etc., Alas, my new Nokia phone wouldn't work with the 'old' Nokia charger.

Connectors: While there is some standardization on connectors for with the advent of USB, some highly popular devices like iPod still uses a proprietary connector.

From a business perspective, accessories may be high margin business for companies but what consumers want is fewer of them.

What do you think?


  1. Visu,

    Just last night I heard a commercial on TV. There is a new device in the market, which is the only one you need for all your devices! ..Hmm..forgot the name though.!

    BTW - I have the same problems. It sucks.!

  2. haven't used it, but on and off i hear about such devices...

  3. I wish the right people would read this post and do something about it...

    It is painful to deal with so much (un)necessary baggage!


  4. ram is correct..Thanks Ram.

    igo - Yeah, that's what the commercial was about

  5. A simple solution :Just dont put the keys in the cable bag..its as easy as that !

  6. Naraynan & Ram

    Yes.. I have heard about iGo.. it does solve part of the problem.. but the danger with that is misplacing the small connecttors (like I did with key..)!!!!

    Yes.. I should have remembered where I put the key in the first place.. !!!! I knew I would get that.. But it still doesn't solve the 'plethora' problem of cables..

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  8. Hi Ram,

    Standard Mini USB port for phones and music players might be the answer. Most Motorola phones already do that. Charging Digi CAM battery through mini USB (which anyway is used for transfer of data) connected to PC, can be a solution.

    By providing a mini USB in place of proprietary connector in their products, might give a competitive advantage to those companies. Especially for the music players. Since IPOD has taken the lead, the other companies can look to provide the USB 2.0 cable and mini USB ports on the players.

    These days Apple IPod does not provide the AC Power Adapter as "standard". Only the USB 2.0 cable is given as standard for data transfer and battery charging.

    The users might want to see the following happen

    * Digi CAM batteries that can be charged with USB 2.0 cable with mini USB port on the camera. (Am not sure if any current models provide this)
    * Phones with Mini USB port.(Motorola already provides that)
    * Music players with mini USB port (IRiver already provides that)


  9. A common device would make things simpler but the companies won't develop/market it as then the customers will not have to pay for several different things.

    In order to keep things simple, I don't take electronic gadgets with me when I travel, if I don't need to.

  10. I've seen that I don't carry that many gadgets around, yet I agree that the cable mess is a problem. I have enough to cause me problems!!! I solved it in one simple stroke - bought a new bag!

  11. Ha, Ram : If you do find the answers, please share with the rest of us !

    Another issue here is aesthetics. I installed a PC + printer recently and I find that the criss-cross entangled cables have the appearance of a snake pit. Why can't they have better junction boxes, connectors, conduits and give the whole thing a neater look?

  12. KK
    Yes few devices have started using USB mini port for data transfer /sync (like Blackberry).. Hopefully more companies / devices will follow the suit..

  13. Nithya
    Yes.. accessories is a 'high margin' business and companies won't shed it anytime soon.. Hopefully, technologies will force them to change and adopt..

    How did the new bag solve your cable problem? In my case, bigger the backpack.. more junk / stuff finds it way..

    As regards to printer.. most of them accept USB now.. earlier that wasn't the case.. requiring separate cable..
    Now all the acessories (printer, keyboard, mouse, camera) all have been standadized to USB.. which is a step in the right direction.. but you are right.. they could be lot better and elgant..

    I also feel, PC as we know now will be defunct in another 10 years..
    yes.. the new Chief Architect, Ray O. wants to move MSFT beyond PC and it will be interesting what he does.. Already, Ray has been instrumental in shaping Zune (iPod competition).. Let's wait and watch..

  14. Satish
    Thanks for the link.. yes.. Tech Trash is problem.. I have read stories about factories in BLR where workers dismantle old monitors without any protection and in the process exposed to 'harmful' chemicals..

    I don't think the Govt has woken up to the challenge..