While there are other emerging interconnect standards that promise speedy transfers, such as Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 still has the momentum from its previous iterations.
Windows 8 will support the latest round of hardware technologies, and its developers have shared with us on the official blog the work being done to integrate "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 into the operating system.
The Windows team's work on USB 3.0 support started before there were even any devices available. Microsoft worked with virtual devices until there was real hardware on which to test.
"To create a brand new USB software stack, we had to start work early. If we waited for hardware to be available we would be too late to support the budding USB 3.0 ecosystem. We decided to start before there were any USB 3.0 devices by building 'virtual' devices," read the Windows Team Blog. "Virtual devices are software representations of real, physical USB hardware: the ports, the hubs, and other devices.
"While we were focused on building support for USB 3.0 chips inside the PC, we couldn’t ignore the world of devices. We had to think outside the box – literally. There are over 10 billion USB devices worldwide. Some are in use daily and some are tucked away collecting dust, but all were originally designed to work with Windows PCs. Compatibility is the Windows promise. Our customers have grown accustomed to expecting new versions of Windows to work with their existing devices and drivers. This commitment to compatibility remains a high priority for Windows 8 across the whole product."
While Apple's operating systems have the luxury of being in a relatively limited and closed ecosystem, Microsoft has a huge challenge in making sure its software is compatible with the widest range of hardware.
The blog further provides a peek into the sort of effort devoted to compatibility: " After 10 years of USB experience, a dozen telemetry sources, and tons of research and brainstorming, we were able to reduce the USB compatibility effort to roughly 1000 unique devices that we regularly test in the Windows labs. We ensure the devices get recognized correctly when connected to PCs, that they sleep and resume appropriately to conserve power, and that they are able to withstand various stress conditions. Our telemetry data indicates that over 90% of devices rely on the 16 class drivers in Windows, but for the more customized devices, we verify that their drivers get seamlessly downloaded from Windows Update whenever possible (the device maker needs to cooperate to support this scenario). With USB 3.0 providing full backwards compatibility, older drivers will still work without any changes."
After all that work, we get the screaming performance that you can see in the video below