Just when you thought Thunderbolt was the hottest thing on the market, Intel has released a few details about the next thing it’s working on: a follow-up to the super fast Thunderbolt that builds up to a whopping 50Gbps.
Intel plans for the new technology to be ready for consumer devices to adopt by the 2015 timeframe. Moreover, the new Thunderbolt 2 is aimed not just at desktops and laptops, but also tablets, smartphones, HDTVs and more. Intel’s banking on the new tech being cheaper than today’s solutions simply because component pricing will be substantially lower in three years than it is today.
While today’s Light Peak connections (the code named technology that would eventually be unveiled as Thunderbolt) use copper cables and transceivers, an optical variant was the original spec – and still something being developed. This new version mixes silicon and fiberoptic tech in a field known as silicon photonics.
Intel hosted an event in New York recently that showed off the work-in-progress. Only very preliminary chips were shown, as well as well faux mockups of the planned cables. The cables, it should be noted, were thinner than those used by current protocols, such as Thunderbolt.
Potential problems with moving to a new interconnect (or even to optical cables within Thunderbolt) is the issue of transferring power. Copper cables have no problem in transferring both data and power, something which fiberoptics cannot do. That means additional wiring must accompany the optic fibers, adding both expense and thickness. Optical cables are inherently more expensive and fragile for consumers to deal with, too.
That may be part of the reason that Intel currently plans on keeping protocols like Thunderbolt supported alongside the new technology, in a move not dissimilar from how USB 1.0 and 1.1 devices are typically still supported on the newer chipsets.