Microsoft Confirms Native USB 3.0 Support in Windows 8

Seemed like a foregone conclusion but it's always reassuring to see this news.

There's nothing like official Windows support to make a specification a standard, such as when Microsoft added USB 2.0 support to Windows XP Service Pack 2. With Windows 8, Microsoft has cast its lot with USB 3.0, giving the new port some badly-needed native support.

Really, it's not like this was in doubt. I think if Microsoft didn't include native USB 3.0 support it would be accused of being derelict in its duty to support standards. At this point, the real suspense is whether or not Microsoft will support Intel's Thunderbolt interface.

The news came from Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows/Windows Live team, via his Building Windows 8 blog. As it turns out, changes in USB 3.0 forced Microsoft to wait a bit.

"Our design had to follow the revised 3.0 specification precisely in order to enable emerging USB 3.0 hardware," Sinofsky wrote. "There are also billions of older USB devices that Windows must remain compatible with."

USB 3.0 shipped in 2008 and is found on Intel Westmere and Sandy Bridge-era motherboards and AMD Fusion motherboards. However, the spec is continuing to evolve.

Earlier this month, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced an update to the USB Power Delivery specification for both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. USB 3.0 went from being able to push through 4.5 watts to 100 watts, an incredible change that could mean USB-powered monitors and hard drives, which could thin out the tangle of power cables in our computers.

The decision to support USB 3.0 was an easy one to make, he wrote. The real challenge was in preserving the current USB ecosystem. "There are also billions of older USB devices that Windows must remain compatible with. How do you write a single piece of software to enable the latest technology on evolving hardware, while making sure it still works with 10 billion existing devices in homes and offices across the world?"

What follows is a rather lengthy post. To make a long post short, he said Microsoft built a custom tool called the Microsoft USB Test Tool (MUTT) to simulate a full range of device behaviors that the company had observed over the years. Microsoft shared this new software tool with third party hardware makers and "they’ve used it to find and correct problems in their devices before releasing," Sinofsky wrote.

All of this is good news. The screw-ups of Vista – not getting the ecosystem ready for launch – are clearly not being repeated.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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