Light Peak Ready, But Uses Copper

Friday during CES 2011, an Intel executive told Computerworld that its Light Peak interconnect technology is ready for implementation. The only thing is that the new tech--which connects PCs to displays, external storage and more--is currently using copper instead of the promised fiber optics.

Intel announced Light Peak back in 2009, an alternative to USB that will use fiber optics to transmit data between systems and connected devices. Rather than compete with the current technology, Intel believed that Light Peak and USB could co-exist on the market. In fact, USB-based display and networking protocols could essentially piggy-back on top of the Light Peak connection.

But if the initial builds are based on copper, will there be enough of an incentive for manufacturers to embed the Intel technology? Previous reports indicated that the light-based version would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances up to 328 feet. However by using copper instead of fiber optics, the speed and range may not be quite as spectacular.

Still, the executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Group David Perlmutter seemed satisfied with the current copper-based results. "The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought," Perlmutter said. "Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive."

Perlmutter pointed out that copper is a good solution for meeting the needs of consumers today, but manufactures will eventually begin to implement the fiber optics version. When that will begin Perlmutter didn't say-- he also wouldn't specify when devices would actually include the new copper-based version of Light Peak.

Ultimately the use of copper in Light Peak comes across as a cost issue for the end-user. At one point Intel said that Light Peak-enabled devices would hit the market in late 2010 or early 2011. But if manufactures begin to roll out the copper versions this year, consumers may not see the fiber optics-version until next year-- if the price is consumer friendly, that is.

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