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Thunderbolt vs. SuperSpeed USB 3.0

By Lucas Mearian, Computerworld
October 11, 2011 01:05 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel will tell you its new high-speed interconnect technology, Thunderbolt, is not in competition with Universal Serial Bus (USB), the ubiquitous standard for connecting computers with other devices.

Apple has gone all in with Thunderbolt-enabled products, and there are a dozen or so manufacturers ready to ship Thunderbolt-enabled systems next year, according to an Intel spokesman. At the Intel Developer Forum in September, a dozen new products were displayed with Thunderbolt ports.

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"You can look forward to seeing Windows-based systems with Thunderbolt in market in the first half of 2012," said Intel spokesman Dave Salvator. Microsoft has also already demonstrated Windows 8 support for Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt, announced earlier this year, offers twice the performance of the latest SuperSpeed USB (3.0) interconnect. So there is reason to believe it could someday overtake USB, the most ubiquitous external I/O technology ever created.

Salvator said Intel sees Thunderbolt as "complementary" to the USB protocol, which Intel also co-developed, but it is serving the needs of devices with higher performance requirements.

"When Intel comes out with Thunderbolt, a whole ecosystem begins building Thunderbolt stuff," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst of market research firm ESG.

According to Salvator, Acer and ASUS have publicly stated that their 2012 platforms will have Thunderbolt, but system manufacturers such as Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard have yet to do the same. All three told Computerworld that they're still "evaluating" the technology.

USB is among the most successful interfaces in the history of personal computers. Among PC and peripheral device manufacturers, USB adoption is virtually 100%. The USB installed base is more than 10 billion units, and those devices are growing at more than 3 billion a year. So it's hard to imagine any external device interconnect technology that could challenge USB.

SuperSpeed USB is optimized for power efficiency. It uses only 1.5 amps of power for charging devices, or about one-third of the power of its predecessor Hi-Speed USB (v2.0).

"We also deliver more power for faster charging," said Jeff Ravencraft, president of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a nonprofit organization founded by the developers of the USB specification, which includes Intel, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. "Power is king today, and the way you manage it is pinnacle."

The current Hi-Speed USB (2.0) specification offers external devices up to 500 milliamps for charging. SuperSpeed USB offers up to 900 milliamps, which translates to 4.5 watts, according to Ravencraft.

If the port is designed to support the USB Battery Charging specification, then the amount of power is upped to 7.5 watts (1.5 amps at 5 volts). Additionally, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group recently announced plans to release a new USB power delivery specification, targeted for completion in early 2012, that would enable higher voltage and current in order to deliver power of up to 7.5 watts over current cables and up to 100 watts over new cables, he added.

Originally published on Click here to read the original story.

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