If there is one standard made for all regions, I guess the charger needs to meet the AC input specs for all the regions (universal AC input), which is anyway a feature of the power supply products available from several manufacturers. The challenge would be to optimize the design for various power requirements, which shall make the "universal" power supply bulkier and more costly? While this takes shape, companies such as FINsix is coming up with the "world's smallest laptop power adapter"; Then would the IEC standard going to discourage such innovations?
Frank, your phrase "if the connector fits, it's ok to plug it in" is very apt in this context. This is something at the minimum I hope the new IEC Standard achieves when it comes generic chargers for laptops / notebooks / tablets!
"The estimated e-waste for chargers of computer and communications devices is more than half a million tons each year, and each year billions of external chargers are shipped worldwide."
I completely agree with the problem statement above and understand a common charger for all of our phone, tab, PCs at home would reduce e-waste. But this alone would not address the issue as there could be situations when the user would want to charge different gadgets at the same time. Hence the numbers of chargers at home might not get reduced compared to what it is today. One advantage I see that the same charger can be re-used even when the gadget is changed.
Initially it may be one more charger to add to the pile, but if the standard is done well and consumers become comfortable with it, this could be a big improvement in reducing e-waste and consumer costs.
The comfort level needs to be "if the connector fits, it's ok to plug it in" -- much as the micro-USB charger has become for non-Apple mobile phones. Nobody worries anymore about the brand compatibility of a micro-USB mobile phone charger. The connector fits, and people know that if they plug it into their phone, the phone will get charged and will not be damaged.
Yes, these are obviously significant challenges--espcially the first question, how are consumers supposed to know what they're looking at. But that challenge is already there--the confusion of having multiple adapters and multiple standards is the very problem which a universal PC charger is meant to combat. I see a lot of interest and a lot of demand on the consumer side for this--the question is whether vendors and manfuacturers will go along for the sake of reducing confusion and lost time for end users.
We're already seeing wireless chargers for mobile dev ices. In fact, they've become a pretty trendy and useful gift in this christmas shopping season. I would imagine it's only a matter of time before they migrate to the PC/notebook space although how long is anyone's guess.
It sounds like the housefull of power adapters will gain at least one more - the "Universal" one. I wonder whether computer companies will agree upon a voltage standard or whether the power adapter will be "intelligent" enough to adapt to each device that it is connected to. Certainly the problem of multiple adapters and the need to sort out which is which will be a treat to get past.
No doubt, this is a challenge. To accomplish true universal, not only does the DC output voltage requires to be specified but also the charging connector. Macbook has been using the same power connector for quite sometimes until the new Macbook Pro and Macbook Air which have thinner design and which require a skinner charging connector. In addition, what about output wattage. When consumer reads universal, they are going to believe they can use an "old" power supply which is designed for regular laptop to power up a powerful gaming laptop. Challenges, I believe, include
1) What kind of information shall be printed on the power supply so that regular consumers will pick it up and understand easily?
2) What's the process of agreeing the connector of the power supply? If computer makers don't come to an agreement, what's the alternative?
3) Weight could be a categorization method to put laptop into different power rating. Could actual power consumption be used instead?
I have build my own desktop way back and I always wonder why laptop can't have a universal power supply. There seems to be more challenges. Nonetheless, I believe the move will not only reduce e-waste but also make consumers life easier.