EU lawmakers today agreed to a draft regulation stating that all consumer electronics manufacturers must use a common standard battery charger device. While the law may not take effect until 2017 or after, that means that Apple -- which uses its own Lightning adapter rather than the micro-USB connectors adopted by most other smartphone and tablet manufacturers -- would be forced to change its connector standard.
The draft legislation could be voted on as soon as March 2014, at which time it will need to be turned into national laws by each EU state. Manufacturers will have another year after state adoption to comply, which means that 2017 is about the earliest that Apple might have to change the Lightning connector.
However, this entire situation -- which was brought on by consumer advocates -- might be a moot point. A new USB connector, under design by one of the original USB architects, Ajay Bhatt, is being considered for adoption and would provide a reversible plug similar to the Lightning connector. This new standard will be called the Type C USB connector, and it might be well worth Apple's investment in time and money to influence the design to be compatible with Lightning.
Other changes are included in the draft legislation, including common rules for radio equipment including mobile phones and data modems, as well as forcing manufacturers to register products prior to market release. A similar registration program is already in place in the United States, where the Federal Communications Commission must approve products prior to sale.