Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Intel: We'll leapfrog USB 3.0 with Light Peak

Intel just demonstrated its new Light Peak optical interconnection technology running on a laptop, at a technology showcase in Brussels. For the demonstration, Intel integrated Light Peak fiber into a conventional USB cable (although the connectors are obviously very different.) The initial bandwidth of Light Peak is 10Gbps, more than three times as fast as USB 3.0.

The Brussels demonstration showed Light Peak sending two separate HD video streams to a television monitor. Intel claims that Light Peak will eventually be able to replace every PC/peripheral interface, including HDMI, USB and DisplayPort. The company also claims that the first Light Peak hardware will ship to manufacturers by the end of the year.

This explains Intel's hesitancy to include USB 3.0 in its chip sets. If it believes that it can start shipping Light Peak by the end of the year, introducing support for USB 3.0 now would simply "muddy the waters", especially since it's highly likely that Light Peak hardware is going to be more expensive than USB 3.0. The critical questions are: Will Intel make its end-of-the-year deadline, how much will it cost for computer and peripheral manufacturers to implement Light Peak, and when will Microsoft and Apple implement support for Light Peak in their operating systems?
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