updated 02:40 pm EDT, Wed September 23, 2009
Intel Light Peak shown at IDF
Intel used a presentation at IDF to unveil Light Peak, a new interconnect standard for PCs. As implied by the name, the technology uses fiber optics instead of wires to transfer data and consequently has much more bandwidth. Even in its first generation, it's expected to transfer at about 10 gigabits per second, or over 20 times faster than USB 2.0; it could transfer the entire contents of a typical Blu-ray disc in about 30 seconds if working at top speed, Intel claims.
The optical nature also has several incidental benefits. As the cables are thinner and don't require as much equipment, they could result in smaller connectors. They can also transmit over longer distances and are more flexible than most existing approaches to wired connections.
Intel plans to make Light Peak a practical reality in 2010 and already sees it as being used to replace existing standards for very fast transfers; it specifically cites the iPod as a possible candidate for very fast data syncs but also says the fiber link could be used for cameras, docks, SSD storage and other external devices that are often bottlenecked by USB 2.0 or FireWire. The company is working "with the industry" to settle on a standard but hasn't said whether this involves Apple, the IEEE standards group or other firms.