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Intel: Apple has year-long headstart on Thunderbolt

updated 02:50 pm EST, Thu February 24, 2011

Intel says Apple leads Thunderbolt until 2012

Intel at its Thunderbolt preview event in San Francisco on Thursday said that Apple effectively had the technology to itself for the next year. The 10Gbps spec wasn't exclusive to Apple, but the semiconductor firm didn't expect other computer builders to have it until early 2012. It was up to them to decide when to leap in, Intel said.

Other companies won't get the developer kit for Thunderbolt until the spring, giving Apple at least several months' lead time. Hardware specifications will be tied to the kit and won't be published publicly, Intel said. Only Intel makes the needed controller chip.

Getting Thunderbolt first represents a major coup for Apple, which has had only a relative handful of unambiguous advantages in the Intel era. Most of its focus has been on getting special or early processors as well on improving on existing technology, such as long battery life or SSD integration. Thunderbolt may now give it a clear speed edge for any external storage, even trumping USB 3.0 and external SATA.

The venue gave Intel more of an opportunity to detail how Thunderbolt works and how it can work in the future. Daisy-chaining could involve a Cinema Display or other DisplayPort screen, but only if the device is the last on the chain. Both optical and electrical cables will work, but the features they allow vary wildly. The wired connection supplies the expected 10W of power but can only go up to three meters (9.8 feet) in length. Optical cables, since they only transmit light, don't supply power but can go up to "tens of meters," Intel said. Optical cables are due later in the year.

If needed, it can work for boot devices but needs a computer with appropriate firmware. It's not clear if the new MacBook Pros support booting from a Thunderbolt-equipped drive.

The technology only supports 10Gbps for now, but it already has scaling built in, according to Intel. Where a current Thunderbolt link is two lanes, it can work with as many as two lanes in each direction, scaling up to 20Gbps symmetrically or 40Gbps if all traffic flows in one direction.

While at the gathering, Intel took the opportunity to show Thunderbolt in action, streaming four 1080p, 10-bit encoded videos from a prototype Promise RAID drive attached to a MacBook Pro. The technique also showed very fast Final Cut Pro rendering while daisy-chained with the Promise drive, a prototype LaCie drive and a Cinema Display.





By Electronista Staff
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  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -53

    bunch of losers

    All those other computer makers, just sitting on the sidelines, waiting for someone to tell them what they need to add. They're probably wasting their time putting in USB 3.0, eSATA, and all these other stupid ports that work with people's current hardware and peripherals.

    Apple knows better. Why waste time giving people something that is useful today when they can offer up a new port that will become useful in a year or two. By then, of course, it'll be time for a new computer. But what should that matter, right.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. iphonerulez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2008

    -29

    Thunderbolt is only an advantage to Apple if

    there are peripherals for it. And it's not like corporations are going to applaud Apple for having some fast transfer port since Apple computers aren't going to be running servers. I think it's a fine way to transfer data, but in this case, a head-start doesn't mean very much. Apple should have tried to get better GPUs instead of this Thunderbolt. Nearly all Mac users would have been able to use faster graphics. I doubt that most users will be dumping their older external drives to use Thunderbolt drives.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -36

    what?

    We have this...
    The 10Gbps spec wasn't exclusive to Apple, but the semiconductor firm didn't expect other computer builders to have it until early 2012. It was up to them to decide when to leap in, Intel said.

    and then this....

    Other companies won't get the developer kit for Thunderbolt until the spring, giving Apple at least several months' lead time.

    How could they have leapt in if they couldn't get the developer kit until spring?

    Getting Thunderbolt first represents a major coup for Apple,

    Well, it's only a 'coup' if it ends up giving them an advantage in the next year. If there's only a few lighteningbolt products out there by 2012, it's not much of a coup except in the "Well, Apple had it first!" space.

    Thunderbolt may now give it a clear speed edge for any external storage, even trumping USB 3.0 and external SATA.

    But this is only going to be useful for external RAID storage, which doesn't really cover many people. When those would complain about lacking USB 3.0 support, the argument for Apple was "Why? Drives don't even use the current bandwidths!".

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Paul Huang

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 1999

    -21

    All dressed up and has no place to go

    By the time there are Thunderbolt devices, everyone would have the Thunderbolt port.

    If you are using Thunderbolt storage devices and a monitor on the same chain, just remember to disconnect your monitor before you mess with the rest of the chain.

    The next update is likely to have two of these ports or an independent Thunderbolt port (without video integration).

    Half baked.

  1. ggirton

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999

    +17

    Of course Apple ...

    can -- and will -- supply its OWN Thunderbolt peripherals. Jeez, some of these comments are idiotic.



  1. slapppy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2008

    +27

    Same cry babies when Apple...

    ...started pushing no floppies, USB, WiFi.....

  1. designr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2002

    +13

    comment title

    "Optical cables, since they only transmit light, don't supply power but can go up to "tens of meters," Intel said. Optical cables are due later in the year."

    Since the optical cables would use the same Thunderbolt ports, it seems logical that a hybrid optical/copper cable could be developed which has the increased length and higher speed advantages of optical data transfers but also powers peripherals via copper.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +28

    Remember...

    ... when the original iMac came out in 1998 and it had - oh horror - USB ports, although there were virtually no USB devices around to connect to it (apart from that EPSON printer that had the same bondi blue color)? Everybody else was still using serial and peripheral ports.

    People were lamenting just like you guys are now.

  1. byRyan

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007

    -9

    Advantage

    While the Jump start is perceived as an advantage - I disagree. Only being available on the newest laptops means there is not a huge market for peripheral devices. If Thunderbolt was available on a wide range of devices, there would be incentive to make abundant and cheap Thunderbolt devices. As for now, expect the hard drives to be ridiculously overpriced compared to their counterparts.

    Although, being a video professional, I am excited for the future of this port, and look forward to what it can bring for mobile editing!

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999

    +11

    Comments...

    I think that some people are missing the point and power of Thunderbolt. As it effectively extends the PCI Express bus outside the computer, it is now possible to expand a laptop in ways previously only possible with a desktop machine. This is a game changer in terms of how many machines a pro-user needs. This could truly be the innovation that kills the desktop. Plug your laptop into just about anything you can think of at home or unplug and go. I have been singularly non-plussed with Apple's lack of innovation (in the computer space) over the past five years but this is as significant as the original iMac. Firewire, USB, SDXC and Thunderbolt. Normally, what Apple gives with one hand it takes with the other. You win something and lose something else. With the option of matte screens also, these are the best new laptops in years. As noted in a related post, I am a bit suspicious about heat issues in the 13", but that's the only caveat.

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