The newly released Thunderbolt interconnect provides two channels of bi-directional data transfer at 10-Gbps rates, which admittedly is way beyond an order of magnitude more than what the USB 2.0 protocol offers. In the future, that will be bolstered even further, as the interconnect will incorporate optical (hence its original name of "LightPeak") as well as copper cabling. However, this is still likely to be some way off.
The huge jump in bandwidth Thunderbolt represents means that, in principal, it should prove to be a very attractive prospect. Despite this, there are serious technical and economic drawbacks that need to be reflected on. All this added performance does not come cheap, and so its ability to swell a bill of materials might actually overshadow its ability to transfer data.
The added expense of implementing Thunderbolt should be relatively easy to cope with in larger items such as computers, but for the pieces of peripheral equipment (such as cameras, storage devices, etc.) having an interface chip that supports it will raise their price tag considerably –something that will be tricky in such commoditized areas.
Though Thunderbolt is compatible with the DisplayPort interface, opening up possibilities for it in application areas such as digital signage, in nearly every other non-consumer market USB is deeply entrenched. There will be difficulties applying the new interconnect to existing hardware and the cost involved will be hard to justify as the benefits of higher speed connectivity won't be as apparent in these environments. Few engineering teams here will take the risk of choosing it if there are still doubts about how great its proliferation will be.
USB, by contrast offers a far more practical migration path, with new iterations increasing the speeds that can be sustained and the power efficiency. Furthermore, it has billions of ports already in operation.
Some people may have prematurely chosen to imply that Thunderbolt represents the end of USB, but in truth there is little to back up this conclusion. More likely is that this interconnect, much like FireWire before it, will remain a nice addition to Apple's Macbooks, iPads and the like, allowing the company to differentiate itself from the competition, rather than seeing widespread adoption across either the consumer or the industrial space.
By compromising on the original concept of moving to an all optical mechanism (as there simply wasn't the demand for the bandwidth this would support and the price points were just too high) Thunderbolt positions itself too close to USB's home turf. It is likely, therefore, that in a similar fashion to FireWire, this will end up being categorized as little more than niche—feeding certain OEMs vanity rather than customers' real requirements. Conversely, USB is a highly cost-effective, backward compatible connectivity solution which has already been embraced universally. As a result it can rely on a much greater groundswell, and will thus remain the way by which the majority of the world's hardware interacts for a long time to come.
Subu Sankaran is an account technical manager at Future Devices Technology International, a company that specializes in converting peripherals to USB. Sankaran is a semiconductor industry veteran who formerly worked at ST-Ericsson and NXP Semiconductors and holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor of engineering degree in electronics and communications from Bangalore University.
How does the market for TB accessories change when it is the default connector in the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 later this year? The logical evolution here is docking stations for phones and tablets, not laptops...
I've got a crate full of assorted cables. I despise the mess. TB will soon sweep most of that clutter away. If I want to plug into one workspace with big monitors and large file archives, I expect to be able to do that with TB. If I want to move to the veranda and type a letter, I won't have to unplug a Medusa mess to do it. I don't mind if those legacy connections hang on for awhile, as long as they do it on the far end of TB, where I don't have to deal with it.
From what I understand TB is not positioned to be the USB3 competitor. It is more intended for specifically the PC market as a connection between e.g. notebook and advanced docking station/display/RAID array etc. Look at the new Apple display. There a single TB is connecting the PC/NB to the display and then you have USB ports installed on the display. You then can chain such displays, what makes a bit more elegant connection due to just single cable between the PC and the rest of the peripherals. I like this setup. I hope that this will be adopted also by other PC/NB vendors.
TB is not USB3 is not Firewire. Just like a car is not a truck is not a jet pack. It is stupid to develop a brand new interface to compete head-on with existing low cost interfaces, and I don't think Intel or Apple is stupid (stupid yet successful products, not stupid company). TB is a similar type of interface, but different purpose which we will only know the details of once products hit the market.
1.USB3 and Thunderbolt(TB) speeds are comparable.
2.USB3 is cheaper to implement than TB.
3.USB3 is compatible with USB2 & USB1, TB is NOT.
USB3 is going to take over.
Thunderbolt has potential, but only once adoption brings in into the PC and Netbook categories. I can imagine buying a light-weight ultra-thin computer that I can hook up to an external video card, monitor, sound card, and co-processor to turn in into a gaming system when I'm at home. I can then swap out components of my system and upgrade them as I choose, and still disconnect and have my light system for travel and portable use.
I think the Thundebolt will slowly gain momentum once the display vendors actually provide the display port for video interface. Soon this interface may gain place in tablets to support multimedia interface.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.