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Microsoft has created a Surface USB-C dongle for ‘people who love dongles’

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Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Microsoft’s latest Surface Laptop and Surface Pro devices don’t ship with USB-C connections, and it’s been a source of controversy for the company. “I love the technology in Type-C, I believe in Type-C,” explains Microsoft’s Surface chief, Panos Panay, in an exclusive interview with The Verge. "When Type-C is ready for our customers, to make it easy for them, we’ll be there.” While Panay isn’t ready to add USB-C to Surface devices just yet, he thinks he has the answer: a dongle. “If you love Type-C, it means you love dongles,” jokes Panay. “We’re giving a dongle to people who love dongles.”

Microsoft is planning to release a dongle that will plug into the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop devices and provide USB-C support. It’s like any dongle you’d expect, and it simply slots into the Surface connector port on the device. “If you want to charge a device with a Type-C charger, you can. If you want to put data back and forth with a Type-C peripheral, you can,” says Panay.

While Panay jokes about USB-C and the dongle problem, he has some serious answers as to why it’s missing on both the new Surface Pro and Laptop. “The last thing I want is to take away the port they need today and tomorrow and the next day, to achieve a technology milestone where I then put a barrier in front of my customers,” says Panay. “A dongle or an adaptor or a cable that didn’t work because it was Thunderbolt or wasn’t Thunderbolt or I bought the wrong peripheral or I tried to charge it with my phone charger but it wasn’t enough to charge my device all day. Those are those moments.”

Panay claims Microsoft is trying to strike a balance, and this new USB-C dongle is an example of that. Microsoft hasn't always held back on adopting new charging methods for Surface devices. Microsoft switched out the Surface connector for a USB 2.0 charger in the Surface 3 so people could use their phone chargers to charge the tablet. “I learned a super valuable lesson with Surface 3,” says Panay. “What we learned very quickly, which was painful for me, was that it was true what we said: you can charge your device with a phone charger. The problem was that it would take 10 or 12 hours depending on how small the wattage is on the charger,” explains Panay. “The challenge is when the customer calls you and says ‘my product doesn’t work, what did you do?’”

Microsoft could have switched the mini DisplayPort on the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop to USB-C, but Panay says that’s simply “taking away another port that matters" and could have generated similar complaints. This new dongle might be enough for those who want USB-C right now, but it's clear that the technology will only truly arrive on future Surface devices. Microsoft isn't providing an exact release date or pricing for its USB-C dongle, but the accessory will be available later this year.