Intel announced this week that its next-generation Thunderbolt protocol will be twice as fast as its predecessor and available by the end of this year.
Current gen-thunderbolt, which first appeared in Macs in 2011 and began rolling out on the PC last year, has a theoretical throughput of 10 Gbps while Intel promises that Thunderbolt 2.0 – codenamed “Falcon Ridge” – can push 20Gbps.
The biggest technological leap for Intel however, is not the increased bandwidth offered by Thunderbolt 2.0 but rather the fact that this bandwidth can be offered on one channel (Thunderbolt 1.0 required two channels to provide 10Gbps of bandwidth). Intel is hyping this breakthrough as a way to transfer files while simultaneously watching 4K video.
As Intel made the announcement at the NAB show, a trade expo geared towards those in the video production industry, Intel’s intended audience for Thunderbolt 2.0 is likely those engaged in 4K video production.
While Thunderbolt’s specs sound impressive on paper, with the exception of 4K video production there is no practical use for this much bandwidth. In many ways this mirrors Firewire’s introduction in the late 1990s early 2000s; it was stuck in the ghetto of DV video production and never caught on for doing much more.
With USB 3.0 on the market at a much lower pricepoint, it’s unlikely that Thunderbolt 2.0 will catch on for anything other than 4k video production and ultra fast access to multi-drive NAS devices.