The Light Peak saga continues: now “ready for implementation”

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Update 2011-02-25: Thunderbolt (code-named Light Peak): an overview

The Light Peak saga [1] continues [Computerworld via Engadget]:

  • Light Peak is now “ready for implementation”.
  • The initial version of Light Peak will not be optical. Quoting Intel:
    “The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought. [...] Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive.”
    How easy will it be to upgrade later on? Future Light Peak ports would have to handle both copper and optical cables.
That means that the next Macs or MacBooks will probably have Light Peak. But Apple’s mobile devices will not (yet), because as far as I know, the mobile version of Light Peak is still being developed.
  • History: Intel’s previous opinion (2010-08-05) of copper was as follows.
    Copper can't keep up with the bandwidth that peripherals require, says Jason Ziller, director of Intel's optical I/O programme. Achieving the 5Gbps throughput of SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) took significant changes to the standard and could be the limit: “They had to redo the signalling, they had to add new wires, they had to shorten cable lengths from five metres to three metres. Electrical speeds and capabilities are hitting their limits. There's a general acknowledgement the next speed bump needs to be optical”. [ZDNet]
  • Copper speed and price:
    Although data transmission speeds will reach higher levels with fiber-optic cabling - including a proposed scale of up to 100 gigabits per second within a decade - the reality on the ground is that optical cabling is quite expensive compared to copper. Intel tipsters have indicated that the company will still be able to hit its initial target of 10 gigabits per second using copper cabling which, itself, will be more than adequate for the typical short connection lengths needed by computer consumers. [PCMag via MacRumors]
  • Plugs: Light Peak can use existing ports such as USB or HDMI and have them do double duty, depending on what cable and device is plugged in. Now Intel and Apple stalling on USB3 makes a lot more sense and it seems likely that they will go for USB. Given the brittleness and user-unfriendliness of USB plugs, that would be an unfortunate choice. Another option is to user power connectors:
    The major uncertainty in Light Peak is what type of power interface it supports, if any. Originally, “Intel said it’s working on bundling the optical fibre with copper wire so Light Peak can be used to power devices plugged into the PC” and so seemed to compete with Power over Ethernet (PoE), USB and in this regard. However the clear announced intention as of 2010 was “to have one single connector technology” that would allow “electrical USB 3.0 […] and, or, other protocols could, down the road, be run over optical” suggesting that Light Peak is a bus rather than an interface and further suggesting that Light Peak would piggyback on USB 3.0 or 4.0 DC power and possibly also (to support monitors) pass through AC (possibly IEEE P1901). [Wikipedia]
  • Light Peak’s main competitor is Power over Ethernet, as explained in “Intel's Light Peak is not the only connection answer
Related posts:
  1. Apple, Intel, and Light Peak: news and predictions [background on Light Peak etc.]

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