As we noted on Monday, Apple's new MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro use a new MagSafe 2 charging standard that is thinner and wider than the previous MagSafe. In order to assist people using the new machines with older equipment like chargers and displays, Apple released a small MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter for $9.99 to ensure continued compatibility.
Apple has not updated its Apple Thunderbolt Display with the new MagSafe 2 standard, but as mentioned on its online store page, the company is now including a free MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with newly-purchased displays.
It certainly is not a tremendous cost for Apple to include a $9.99 adapter (which actually costs Apple significantly less) with a $999 purchase, but it is a convenient inclusion for new purchasers who otherwise might not realize that they need a converter. Those who are aware of the new MagSafe 2 standard should also be aware that they do not need to purchase a separate converter if they wish to purchase an Apple Thunderbolt Display.
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Apple looks to the future, not the past. The Retina MacBook Pro works as intended out of the box without the converter, and it would be unnecessary for a significant number of people who wouldn't be using it with a display or an older power adapter. So to Apple it would mainly serve to clutter up the clean presentation inside the box. :)
Bundling it with the Thunderbolt Display will likely see a greater proportion of people needing to use it, and even many of those who don't need it yet will likely need it in the future when they buy new machines.
For the new MBP, "necessary adapters" could mean all, some or fewer of:
* Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort to VGA
* Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort to DVI
* Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI
* Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort to full DisplayPort
* Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort to HDMI (maybe you want 2 HDMI monitors?)
* TOSLink to 3.5mm optical (digital audio)
* HDMI to DVI (maybe you want both TB ports for discs)
* Thunderbolt to Ethernet
* Thunderbolt to FireWire
...all of which will be essential to someone and completely useless to others.
The last two are pretty non-trivial bits of electronics, and $30 for the TB-to-Ethernet is actually cheaper than a TB-to-TB cable. I'm pretty sure some of the MiniDisplayPort-to-X adapters are active (i.e. they've got electronics in them) rather than just plug adapters.
Generally, the computer is the power source for the Thunderbolt bus. What happens if someone daisy-chains a disc drive between computer and monitor?
Also, more power means thicker cables, bigger pins on the connector.
The fact that Thunderbolt was initially planned as an optical interface may also have had an effect - and remember, Thunderbolt isn't just Apple's toy - its a standard. Maybe having the computer powered by the monitor wasn't on other stakeholders' agendas?
More interestingly, I wonder why they didn't develop this idea - adding data lines to the magsafe connector:
...possibly worried about introducing non-standard connectors to Thunderbolt, or being compelled to license MagSafe to other Thunderbolt customers?
I think the TB display is really due for an update. The internals seem kludgy and unnecessarily complex and expensive (there's more stuff than in a MBP).