Breaking News
News & Analysis

Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O

2/24/2011 04:05 PM EST
27 comments
NO RATINGS
More Related Links
View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
jaybus0
User Rank
CEO
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
jaybus0   2/26/2011 1:17:13 PM
NO RATINGS
Don't overlook the obvious. Thunderbolt can readily do USB, Ethernet, and several other protocols. Apple has always been big on square white box adapters to plug into their more obscure i/o interfaces, for example iPod-to-USB, DisplayPort-to-HDMI, etc. Thunderbolt is all about the PHY. For Intel, it is getting the market primed for the new interface by introducing it using copper. That just means they don't yet have their on-die optical components up to production quality. Once that happens, optical controllers will be cheap and lower power, and they can release optical Thunderbolt into an existing market. That will scale Thunderbolt to at least 100 Gbps, probably to 1 Tbps, and without greatly increasing power consumption / thermal envelope and without decreasing cable distances. Copper interfaces will not be able to compete. Apple will sell a Thunderbolt-to-multiple-USB3 white box adapter to accomodate legacy devices.

mikejt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
mikejt   2/26/2011 11:16:09 AM
NO RATINGS
Hey Rick ... like the beard! Anyway ... yes, Thunderbolt is cutting USB 3 off at the pass. It's *so* much better a match to the internal connections *within* the system (PCI-E). Systems already have to bridge from PCI-E to USB, and the process is really ugly, resulting in lots of software overhead and truly ugly latency numbers. One of the reasons USB 2, which is nominally 20% faster than FW400, is actually 50% slower in the real world is that poor match between the USB architecture and the memory-bus model of PCI-E, while Firewire *is* a memory bus, so bridging the two is much easier with *much* less software overhead.

mikejt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
mikejt   2/26/2011 11:05:57 AM
NO RATINGS
Oh, and Apple could care less if it's optical or not ... it had to be *inexpensive*, *robust mechanically*, *low latency*, *consumer friendly*, *cool* and *not stupid* ... so USB 3 was right out.

mikejt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
mikejt   2/26/2011 11:01:00 AM
NO RATINGS
Sigh. No ... it's not 10GbE ... it's a fairly generic serdes, but one that is closer to that used in PCI-E. And yes, they could have used an Ethernet infrastructure, but that's not the point ... the point was to have an I/O interconnect that is *software* compatible with the highest speed interface *inside* the system, and that's PCI-E. (The video interface is a great addon, and allowed them to repurpose an existing high speed serial link (Display Port) and a nice small connector (mini-DP). So, yes, there is little that is *really* new here, it's a wonderful way to bring really high bandwidth *and* low latency I/O to the outside of the box without a big change in software architecture. And I *really* know what I'm talking about here, since I was Apple's tech lead for Firewire back in the days, *and* I did some USB 2 work after that, *and* I'm now working with the most leading-edge Ethernet stuff around (which is still the best way to do high speed *networking*, but not necessarily I/O). And I think "Thunderbolt" is a great name. USB, blech ... eSATA, give me a break ... FibreChannel, *so* geeky ... "LightPeak", better but still blah ... remember that "Firewire" was a name that people still remember, while "iLink" (the Sony term) has been thankfully forgotten ... more details (if you care) at http://johasteener.com/firewire_FAQ.html#Why_all_these_names

mikejt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
mikejt   2/26/2011 10:42:27 AM
NO RATINGS
Apple will do just fine. I think Steve & co learned their lesson with Firewire (technical superiority can't compete with lower cost and wide adoption) ... similar to the Sony Betamax lesson. Note that this is NOT an Apple initiative ... it's an Intel initiative with *input* from Apple. Apple could have just as easily adopted USB 3, another Intel initiative ... but they have way too much sense to buy into that particular boondoggle.

mikejt
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
mikejt   2/26/2011 10:38:05 AM
NO RATINGS
Actually, I know a *lot* of moms and pops that have no idea what *any* of the connectors are for, except for power. Their kids know about USB as the "iPod" connector. Aside from that, connectors and cables are geek territory, I'm afraid ... and among the semi-geeky types, the USB connector is hated because they can't figure out which way to plug it in. Of course, the truely geek know that the USB symbol has to be "up" (or whichever direction "up" might be for vertical orientations, or the bizarre way they are mounted on my NEC display). Anyway, USB has run out of steam, and USB 3 is really kind of an embarrassment (something that I tried very hard to reorient into a more reasonable direction, but the Intel USB guys didn't want to listen). Thunderbolt, on the other hand, is really a great combination of Intel technology and technomarketing muscle and Apple's sense of style and what a *consumer* might like.

rick merritt
User Rank
Author
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
rick merritt   2/25/2011 11:05:46 PM
NO RATINGS
I am looking for any PC or CE maker beyond Apple who will use Thuderbolt...please chime in!

wilber_xbox
User Rank
Manager
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
wilber_xbox   2/25/2011 5:52:44 PM
NO RATINGS
quite true. It will take some effort to convince customers, which have been listening to Apple dearly for sometime. But it will be the industry players, which will be the make or break of any technology. Widespread support is required for any technology to be successful.

jimcondon
User Rank
Rookie
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
jimcondon   2/25/2011 2:13:10 PM
NO RATINGS
I think this a huge win for Intel and Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a technology with a huge upside especially when you look at the optical implementation. While USB 3.0 is competitive at this point, Thunderbolt is at the beginning of the growth curve and we are squeezing the last bits of performance out of USB. For Intel to have this in the market and out of R&D, starts to validate it and give it legs. If we remember how long it took for USB to gain penetration, Thunderbolt needed a win to start the process of acceptance.

eewiz
User Rank
CEO
re: Apple MacBook debuts Thunderbolt I/O
eewiz   2/25/2011 12:46:44 PM
NO RATINGS
Without backward compatibility with existing USB 2.0 devices, no hope. Mistake by Apple. With USB 3 ports you can totally remove USB 2.0 ports. With Thunderbolt, you still need to keep them. My guess is, Intel Bribed Apple big time to adopt this non standard tech. Something like 25$ + Free chip/mac for every thunderbolt deployment.

Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Radio
NEXT UPCOMING BROADCAST
EE Times Senior Technical Editor Martin Rowe will interview EMC engineer Kenneth Wyatt.
Top Comments of the Week
Like Us on Facebook

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EE Times on Twitter
EE Times Twitter Feed
Flash Poll