Intel is already working on a Thunderbolt successor.
Intel is reportedly working on a new interconnect technology capable of pushing data between computers five times faster than its just-launched Thunderbolt technology. Slated to arrive in 2015, it will be based on silicon photonics which combines silicon components and optical networking.
Wednesday during a press event in New York, Jeff Demain, strategy director of circuits and system research at Intel Labs, said the new tech will provide speeds of up to 50 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters, whether it's a connection between PCs or between external drives, smartphones and tablets.
He also indicated that the new tech will also cost less to build because the components will be created using existing silicon manufacturing techniques. "We have to use the silicon manufacturing technologies we know," Demain said. "That's what the promise of the technology is. It is based on a silicon foundation."
Furthermore, Intel expects the new tech to help propel the successors of 1080p into consumer living rooms. As it stands now, image resolutions are slated to quadruple by the middle of the year, requiring a larger pipeline to push the massive loads of video data from set-top boxes and other devices to HDTVs. 50 gigabits per second should handle that kind of virtual haul.
During the presentation, Demain showed mock-up cables that will supposedly carry the data. Based on the current design, these will actually be thinner than cables currently used for USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. The new tech will also follow Thunderbolt's lead and support both DisplayPort and PCI-Express protocols as well as other unnamed protocols.
After showcasing the cables, Demain also revealed working prototypes of the silicon chips that will be used to transmit and send the laser signals. These chips will eventually be merged together and reduced in size to fit within smartphones and tablets.
As Thunderbolt exists with USB, the new tech should exist side-by-side with Thunderbolt in some devices. "We see them as complementary. It's the evolution of these connectors and protocols as they move forward," Demain said. "Thunderbolt is more than a cable. It's a router chip that aggregates DisplayPort and PCI-Express."