Wander away from the phalanx of manufactures hawking ultabooks and tabets ready for Windows 8, and you’ll find the other emerging story of Computex – the coming-out party of Intel’s Thunderbolt on P.C hardware.
Much like the FireWire port of yore, Thunderbolt – originally known by the code name of “Light Peak” – began its life in the world in the refreshed Macbook Pro line in February of 2011.
From a technical perspective, Thunderbolt is two cables capable of bidirectional data transfer in one: a fast PCI Express cable for transferring data and a DisplayPort cable for driving an attached display.
According to claims made by Apple and Intel in press materials, Thunderbolt is capable of 10Gbps of sustained transfer in either direction. This makes it 12 times faster than the latest FireWire protocol, FireWire 800, and 20 times faster than USB 2.0.
In past press materials, Intel has emphasized that Thunderbolt very well could be the ‘one port to rule them all’.
“All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common connector, and let individuals simply daisy-chain their devices one after another, connected by electrical or optical cables,” Intel said in an earlier press release.
Now that Intel has released its next generation of Thunderbolt controllers, P.C component manufactures have quickly picked up on the trend and have put a number of Thunderbolt equipped motherboards into the production cycle: Gigabyte, ASUS, ASRock, MSI, and other major OEMs all have pledged support to produce Thunderbolt boards.
Considering that the de-facto theme of Computex is the ultrabook, Intel has played-up the role of Thunderbolt as the “ultrabook ‘amplifier’”. Thunderbolt could be an enabler of greater display and storage potential for an ultrabook, giving the device much more potential.
For Intel, the challenge with Thunderbolt will be how to make it competitive with USB 3.0. The introduction of Thunderbolt has followed many of the same steps of FireWire – a protocol that has been having an extended funeral after continuing to loose its market share and device support year-over-year to USB 2.0.
Intel’s director of marketing, Jason Ziller, isn’t overly worried about Thunderbolt following the path of FireWire.
“We expect Thunderbolt to be complementary to USB 3.0,” he said at Computex press conference. “We expect to see them co-existing on PCs. When you have them both, you really don’t need anything else.”