Wouldn't it be nice if all notebooks conformed to a single charger standard? That's the goal of the International Electrotechnical Commission, which has developed a common standard for notebook chargers. The charger specification will be published early next year, and it might have a shot at taking hold. In 2011, the same group released a universal charger standard for mobile phones. That spec is based on Micro USB and "has been widely adopted by the mobile phone industry," according to the IEC. That's the mobile phone industry outside of Apple, of course.
The press release announcing the notebook charger spec is bereft of technical details, so it's hard to know what to expect. If the standard is to work with future systems, the plug will have to be slim enough to account for notebooks with increasingly thin profiles. I wonder if there's any MagSafe-style voodoo involved.
Interestingly, the IEC notes that some groups are working toward a universal charger that would cover multiple classes of devices. Being able to charge a smartphone and notebook with the same adapter would certainly be convenient. However, the IEC claims "technical realities" stand in the way of multi-device charging, which "is likely still a long way from being achievable." The notebook charging spec is meant to provide a solution that's ready for adoption.
I'm a little surprised the press release spends much of its time talking about how a universal charger could reduce electronic waste. You'd think convenience would be a more compelling argument. Either way, I hope we get some sort of universal standard. I can see four notebooks and convertibles from where I'm sitting right now, and each one of them has a different power adapter. Ugh.