SAN JOSE, Calif. – Intel's first implementation of Light Peak will not be broadly adopted by PC makers, but it opens a door to future optical interconnects. That's the view of an engineer in one top-tier PC company and an analyst report published separately today.
PC makers are ramping up for a significant transition to the copper-based USB 3.0 that can deliver data at more than 3 Gbits/second. Most have no plans to use the 10 Gbits/second Light Peak, said a senior engineer at one top-tier PC maker who asked not to be named.
"I think there will be some who will use Light Peak, but not the volume OEMs like the Acers, HPs and Dells," said the PC engineer. "They won't have a need for it," he said.
That's in line with the conclusion of a report on Light Peak written by Tom Rossi and published Wednesday (Sept. 21) by IGI Consulting Inc. (Boston).
"None of the top three (HP, Dell, Acer) have made even a hint of support for Light Peak—these OEMs are well known supporters of USB 3.0," said the report.
That said, Light Peak may be used in some server applications and it could be adopted in consumer systems from Apple "because [Apple's users] already pay a premium and they want the coolest gadget," said the engineer.
Intel first announced Light Peak at the Intel Developer Forum in September 2009, suggesting it could be the successor to USB. Last week at IDF 2010, Intel said all the components for Light Peak—including discrete controllers from Intel—will ship this year, enabling systems in 2011.
But "there's nothing compelling about Light Peak" in its initial implementation, said the PC engineer.
USB 3.0 provides ten times the bandwidth of the existing 480 Mbits/second USB 2.0 spec it replaces. By contrast, Light Peak's promise to double USB 3.0 data rates to nearly 10 Gbits/s "won't be that significant for a lot of apps," said the engineer.
"You will need higher data rates than 10Gbits/s to make differences in apps like video something end users can really see," he said.
By contrast, an estimated $5-10 cost increase for Light Peak chips, optical modules and cables is unacceptable, he added. "Twice the data rate for that cost just doesn’t make sense—it's taking profit margin away," said the engineer.
Intel initially claimed Light Peak could cost OEMs as little as $2 per port, a figure the analyst report challenged. Intel also said Light Peak could support distances of up to 100 meters.
"I would rather use USB 3.0 and drive three meters which is more than adequate for any usage model out there," said the engineer.
Given the broad adoption of USB, "There is no financial or technical reason to get rid of the USB connector, and it’s a no brainer to shift to USB 3.0, said the engineer.