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Thunderbolt Heading to Windows PCs in 2012

By - Source: Computerworld | B 45 comments

Acer and Asus will release PCs with Thunderbolt technology early next year. Meanwhile, Intel says that copper wiring will be used in the foreseeable near future thanks to the high cost of fiber optics.

Wednesday Intel said that Acer and Asustek Computer will launch Windows-based PCs next year featuring Intel's Thunderbolt high-speed interconnect technology. The company made this revelation at this year's Intel Developer Forum as Mooly Eden, Intel's general manager of the PC client group, demonstrated Thunderbolt in action on a PC during his keynote address.

Since its debut back in February, Thunderbolt has been an exclusively-licensed feature on Apple's Macintosh computers, offering transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps between compatible devices and their host computers (USB 3.0 offers up to 5 Gbps). However, the demonstration seen on-stage at IDF showed solid state drives connected to a Windows PC and transferring four uncompressed videos at 700 MB/s.

For now, Thunderbolt only supports the PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols. There's also a limited number of compatible peripherals available on the market thanks to Apple's previous exclusivity. That said, Intel stated that it plans to add Thunderbolt support in its chipset for the upcoming Ivy Bridge processors slated to arrive in desktops and laptops early next year. These will be used in Intel's ultrabook design, but currently it's unclear if Ivy Bridge-based models will actually sport Intel's Thunderbolt tech.

As previously reported, Thunderbolt -- which is viewed as an alternative to USB 3.0 -- was originally labeled Light Peak and designed to use fiber optics instead of the current copper wiring. But in order to reduce the cost for manufacturers and consumers, Intel resorted to using the cheaper copper wiring method (which actually works better than originally expected). In fact, Intel has now indicated that copper may be the wiring of choice for the foreseeable near future.

"[Fiber optics is] going to be way out," said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, in an interview at the Intel Developer Forum. "At the end of the day it's all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay. Copper will continue to improve, which happens. There have been many technologies that had been predicted dead 20 years ago that are still making good progress. We'll see."

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  • 4 Hide
    Soma42 , September 16, 2011 4:08 PM
    Intel was pushing for this not too long ago...

    Funny how priorities change :) 
  • -7 Hide
    COLGeek , September 16, 2011 4:09 PM
    OK. And this is a big deal why?
  • 6 Hide
    beenthere , September 16, 2011 4:13 PM
    A technology for which there is little if any need and it ain't free so I'll pass.
  • -2 Hide
    rozz , September 16, 2011 4:16 PM
    be awesome to see this technology somehow network PC together. Be nice to be able to transfer files between 2 close proximity machines that quickly
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , September 16, 2011 4:21 PM
    so let me get this right, Intel may support thunderbolt (their own proprietary format) but not UBS 3.0 (industry standard format) with ivy bridge. I sure hope bulldozer's performance is compelling enough to make Intel reconsider their position on this.....
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , September 16, 2011 4:21 PM
    Now Intel's thunderbolt will flourish when not only 5% of the newly sold computers have support for it, bet they realized their mistake with such minuscule install base that it will never take of for real and rectified the situation!
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 16, 2011 5:18 PM
    Weired comments. I'm pretty sure Intel championed USB as well. They are just moving beyond USB with Thunderbolt. FWIW, even USB 3.0 is S-L-O-W. I have it now and it is still pitifal. I would never use it regularly for hard drive technology. eSATA is still the only way to go there but now with Thunderbolt, you have an interface for all of your hard drives, thumb drives, and any other external tech like monitors, optial drives, cameras, etc. People stuck on USB are like the people who stuck to VESA.
  • 0 Hide
    burnley14 , September 16, 2011 5:29 PM
    TBoltGuyWeired comments. I'm pretty sure Intel championed USB as well. They are just moving beyond USB with Thunderbolt. FWIW, even USB 3.0 is S-L-O-W. I have it now and it is still pitifal. I would never use it regularly for hard drive technology. eSATA is still the only way to go there but now with Thunderbolt, you have an interface for all of your hard drives, thumb drives, and any other external tech like monitors, optial drives, cameras, etc. People stuck on USB are like the people who stuck to VESA.


    I'm with ya, I don't understand most of the above comments. Intel is pushing a new technology that offers to be amazingly convenient and fast, yet these people are hating on it? Must be because it was adopted by Apple first and the ignorant Apple-mongers that peruse this site so often can't understand anything more complex than "Apple sucks."
  • 1 Hide
    NITROGEnarcosis , September 16, 2011 5:37 PM
    Any word if this will support TCP/IP like firewire? Would be nice to have a 10gbps link between two systems considering the cost of 10gbps ethernet atm.
  • 1 Hide
    CaedenV , September 16, 2011 5:42 PM
    I'm stoked about this. It is actually one of the reasons why I have not jumped on upgrading this year. While USB3 is cool and all, it is a very limited application on connecting storage devices to computers.

    The original idea behind Lightpeak (thunderbolt is just too lame a name to switch to!) was that it would be one interconnect for all devices, and all protocols. The idea was that you could run ethernet, usb, firewire, eSATA, PCIe, and other popular interconnects through one daisy chain.
    In reality it has fallen far short of this, but it is still very fast and has much more potential than USB (1.2GB/s vs 600MB/s). I would absolutely love to have one cable for everything. I hate having a bunch of cables, and then 8 flavor of USB for my devices.
  • 0 Hide
    festerovic , September 16, 2011 6:21 PM
    On paper, the specs for the version 1.0 Lightpeak/Thunderbolt are pretty good. Surprised there is so much negativity towards what will become a great and extremely convenient interface.
  • 5 Hide
    salgado18 , September 16, 2011 6:22 PM
    TBoltGuyWeired comments. I'm pretty sure Intel championed USB as well. They are just moving beyond USB with Thunderbolt. FWIW, even USB 3.0 is S-L-O-W. I have it now and it is still pitifal. I would never use it regularly for hard drive technology. eSATA is still the only way to go there but now with Thunderbolt, you have an interface for all of your hard drives, thumb drives, and any other external tech like monitors, optial drives, cameras, etc. People stuck on USB are like the people who stuck to VESA.

    Don't know about other people, but I'll only stop complaining about it when I hear Intel has licensed Thunderbolt to other manufacturers, like AMD and ARM.
  • 0 Hide
    lathe26 , September 16, 2011 6:39 PM
    I doubt that Thunderbolt will become the "one bus to rule them all". The problem is that it has poor support for low-end devices (ex: mice and keyboards). The chips cost too much and are too complex. Firewire was also once predicted to become the "one bus to rule them all" (I know people who worked on Firewire-based backplane computers in the 90s) but it also dropped the ball on low-end devices as well. This is a major reason why USB won over Firewire (among others).

    In fact, PS/2 hung on for a very long time only because mice and keyboards used to be cheaper to make for PS/2 that USB. PS/2's specialized purpose and precious laptop port real estate finally killed it off.

    Instead, expect that Thunderbolt will succeed in the extreme high-end for specialized devices, USB and Thunderbolt to battle it out in mid-range devices, and USB to dominate on the low-end. USB will continue to dominate the market for years due to it's sheer current market volume. It will have plenty of time to come out with a 4.0 version that could compete head to head with Thunderbolt. Whether that actually happens or succeeds is another matter.
  • 1 Hide
    t_wilson , September 16, 2011 7:00 PM
    "Thunderbolt has been an exclusively-licensed feature on Apple's Macintosh computers"

    Sony has been using this tech in their Vaio Z2 for several months now, so it is not exclusive to apple.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 16, 2011 7:01 PM
    The negatives are not about whether the tech is better or not, it aimed directly at Intel using their market dominance to supplant an industry standard with one of their proprietary standard (which you will have to pay Intel to implement)

    if ivy bridge will support both usb 3.0 and thunderbolt then no problems, but if it only supports thunderbolt then i can see issue, and extremely important if you look further down the line intel plans on integrating the south bridge directly into the CPU die, making it costlier and possibly harder to implement usb 3.0 via 3rd party
  • 0 Hide
    shadamus , September 16, 2011 8:31 PM
    I'd love to see this utilized as a low-cost alternative to Fiber Channel for interfacing with storage devices (Home-brew SAN/NAS boxes, etc...).

    Promise already has their Pegasus line of Thunderbolt RAID appliances (and a spiffy Fiber Channel to Thunderbolt adapter). I'm hoping they see a lot of competition in this space.
  • -2 Hide
    RazorBurn , September 17, 2011 2:03 AM
    95% of people complaining about Thunderbolt actually never used more than 1GBps of Ethernet speed.

    But for the rest of us who actually used more than 1Gbps need thunderbolt and not USB 3.0

    Our 9TB 5 Drive NAS shared across 50+ computers.. 1Gbps, USB 3.0 is insufficient even eSATA..
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 17, 2011 3:38 AM
    @RazorBurn

    lol so your sharing a single NAS across 50+ computer and you seriously think thunderbolt can solve your problems....... i would have thought a distributed file server would have been a better solution

    and if you paid attention no one is complain about getting more speed from the BUS, it's the fact that intel is exerting their market dominance to supplant a industry standard, once USB goes the way of firewire what stops Intel from using thunderbolt to force people to fall into line, they have done it in the past using their CPUs and the BUS has far more reaching impact then just the CPU
  • 1 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 17, 2011 3:50 AM
    About time! I hope it will arrive in a form of a PCI-E card, because I don't want to change the motherboard just to get this. And I totally welcome this tech; it's just sad that Apple got it first for some reason (not only got it, but also no one else was allowed to use it).
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 17, 2011 4:02 AM
    yay the useless gimmick apple has is finally getting some support on the pc....
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