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Intel Portables Hardware

Expect Hundreds of Thunderbolt Devices, Says Intel 351

Posted by timothy
from the gee-that's-a-small-production-run dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Thunderbolt ports have been spotted on a PC motherboard, but the reality is that the technology is far from mainstream outside of Apple products. Which is why it is interesting to hear Intel predict that 'a hundred' Thunderbolt devices are expected to be on the market by the end of the year. The comment was made this week at Intel's presentation at IDF in Beijing. Ultrabooks with Thunderbolt are expected to appear this year."
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Expect Hundreds of Thunderbolt Devices, Says Intel

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:30PM (#39659489)

    But literally, just hundreds.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:34PM (#39659565)
    Or are they also counting the computers with an unused thunderbolt port on them?
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I use mine! For HDMI only. I hope splitter exist for this because only having one port is really dumb.

      • by chaim79 (898507)

        From what I understand it's like Firewire, it daisy-chains instead of splitting. That being said I'm sure someone will come up with a thunderbolt hub at some point.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:24PM (#39660577) Journal
          Architecturally, this is true: with the ugly exception of the fact that a very high speed peripheral bus and a video-out interface were bodged into the same connector for no wildly obvious reason.

          Because Firewire was a data-only thing, the probability that a given device would daisy-chain was actually pretty decent in the real world, and you could put the non-cooperative freak on the end of the chain. Thunderbolt more analogous to a port that sneaks firewire into your VGA-out(albeit in a way that makes splitting much more complex than a simple mechanical pinout adapter, is my understanding). Because there are loads of video-only devices in the world, the vast majority don't daisy-chain because video devices aren't expected to.

          This is the trouble for Thunderbolt: As with classy firewire devices, most of the "thunderbolt peripherals" daisy-chain just fine. However, your Thunderbolt port is also your only video-out port, and something north of 99% of monitors, TVs, projectors, etc. have never heard of this 'daisy-chain' business.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You're not giving it proper credit here. Its not "bodged" it's multiplexed. It's a high speed data bus that can transport PCI express and Displayport data. This is helpful because it lets your GPU stay in your computer.

            You're only going to connect a thunderbolt monitor to your thunderbolt port. If you're going to connect a non-thunderbolt monitor you're going to want some sort of breakout device that lets you continue the chain while providing a video out. However, sensible computers will have dedicated vid

            • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:55PM (#39661217) Journal
              Oh, don't get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for the engineers who got a very fast bus working over cables that Joe User can be trusted with, for comparatively cheap. My point was merely that, because the bus is tied to the displayport, rather than just being an external 4x PCIe port, it is assured that most every use case already has a daisy-chain incompatible peripheral in the mix, the video device. Had the two not been combined, that wouldn't have been true.

              The fact that getting the two signals into one connector is technically impressive is true; but it's still a handicap for all but terminal minimalists.
          • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:59PM (#39661307)
            "for no wildly obvious reason"
            Except for a single cable that replaces a laptop dock. You might argue that there isn't much additional functionality that Thunderbolt has over a dock, the major advantage is that Thunderbolt will be universal while a dock is limited only to a manufacturer and even only to certain models from that manufacturer.

            Also, DisplayPort or mini-DisplayPort is the the connector which is cable compatible with HDMI and you don't need to daisy chain it.

          • by beelsebob (529313)

            There's a very simple reason –it's a universal, standardised, laptop docking port. One port, USB, ethernet, PCI, monitor, firewire, etc all connected.

          • Thunderbolt used to be on USB 3.0. The USB consortium balked and apple came to the rescue with MDP

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:54PM (#39659965)

      I see a Thunderbolt port as kind of like Sacagawea dollar. Just like I can trade my Sacagawea dollar in at the bank for a real dollar, I can go buy a converter for my Thunderbolt port to turn it into a real port.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:59PM (#39661313)

      You make a somewhat valid point, but think about it from the vendor's point of view:

      You need to have computers support TB before you can really sell devices using TB. People don't buy a hard drive or monitor, and then find a computer that will use it; they find a computer they want and then buy a hard drive or monitor that will work with *that*, simply because it's cheaper to buy a new monitor than it is to buy a new computer.

      The laptop I have on preorder has a TB port. I don't particularly care about that either way - it seems to have displaced the eSATA port, and the only eSATA device I have works as USB just as well. But, when I'm out shopping for [device] in a year from now, TB will be an option, and possibly the best option.

      Vendors know, through long experience, to build up the supporting devices (ones that support the new standard as well as old ones) well before making devices that primarily or exclusively use the new standard. Even a decade after USB 1.1, computers had legacy PS/2 ports for keyboards and mice. Even years after DVI was itself made technically obsolete, computers were coming with VGA ports.

      Remember when USB first came out? At first, nothing really used it. You'd see printers support it as an option, right next to the old parallel port; you'd see a few USB mice and keyboards, often packaged with a PS/2USB converter. But now, you have to look long and hard to find a computer *without* USB, and finding legacy PS/2 keyboards or parallel cables is rather difficult.

      Thunderbolt isn't guaranteed to take off the same way (remember FireWire? Or the countless mini-DVI ports? Or any other failed standard?), but it *could*. And so device manufacturers throw it in, especially since Intel's chipsets support it *anyways*. It's another bullet point to put on the marketing, but it could be that small little edge against [competitor], right?

      • Remember when USB first came out? At first, nothing really used it. You'd see printers support it as an option, right next to the old parallel port; you'd see a few USB mice and keyboards, often packaged with a PS/2USB converter. But now, you have to look long and hard to find a computer *without* USB, and finding legacy PS/2 keyboards or parallel cables is rather difficult.

        The USB/PS2 thing causes some issues in certain scenarios. For example, mine.

        I have a 2004-era motherboard, and it has a very useful feature: turn on PC via PS/2 keyboard. Can't do it with a USB keyboard. My old keyboard -- USB, actually, but connected through a PS/2 adapter -- died and I bought a new one. Unfortunately, it doesn't do jack shit with the adapter.

        So, now I have to bend, open the case door and push the button on the computer case to turn on the PC. You might say it's not a big deal, and it isn

  • Is this going to be like USB with V1.0 ,the crippled version to meet a GSA spec? Then later in the year v2.0 ,the real thing. Then next year V3.0 with all of the bugs out.
  • by ltwally (313043) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:40PM (#39659677) Homepage Journal

    Which is why it is interesting to hear Intel predict that 'a hundred' Thunderbolt devices are expected to be on the market by the end of the year.

    Intel designed Thunderbolt in conjunction with Apple. Which probably means Intel did most of the leg-work on it. How exactly is it "interesting" that Intel is promoting something they invented?

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      You can forgive us for being confused. The last time Intel did something like this they included it for free on all of their motherboards. By the time Microsoft finally got around to support it, most of the machines out there already had support for it.

      None of that is happening this time around.

      TB gets confused for an Apple-centric followup to Firewire because that's what it looks like on the surface.

  • What is it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:44PM (#39659765)

    In short, it's a combination of both Mini DisplayPort and PCI Express, multiplexed together and demultiplexed at the reciever, but the controller is smart enough to maintain backwards compatibility with regular old displayport 1.2, so your MiniDP adapters will still work.

  • I've been dreaming about the possibility of connecting a beefy external GPU to a laptop and running things like Folding@Home on it. Why not other GPGPU stuff and games, too.
  • Thunderbolt will become famous for its potential for unauthorized access (DMA attack [wikipedia.org]) and nothing else. Let's hope the media outcry will be heard far enough for everyone to disable these ports completely and for vendors to stop using them. These are difficult times for privacy and we do not need such ill-designed interfaces forced down our throats.
    • Isn't PC Card and ExpressCard also vulnerable to this style attack?
      • by Hatta (162192)

        And Firewire.

      • I'm not sure about PC Card; but ExpressCard depends: that connector is 1x USB2 + 1xPCIe. Most of the lower speed devices are actually just USB dongles designed to fit inside your laptop. The ones that are actually PCIe peripherals? I hope you brought your IOMMU....
    • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:21PM (#39660515) Homepage

      No, they learnt from the old DMA Hacks on Firewire. Now Intel CPU's have an IOMMU to prevent those DMA attacks from succeeding. Whether a way to break that will be found in future remains to be seen.

      If they do find a way to break it, then we are back to where we were before. Physical access always wins with hacking. DMA Attacks can be done via Firewire, thunderbolt, PCI, PCI express, PCMCIA, ExpressCard, etc... Basically anything that is connected to the bus. Yet we will still use it due to its performance/efficiency advantages, and the world will not end.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Don't we have a saying around here about having physical access to a device?

  • As the drives don't ship with them, and there only seems to be one on the market right now ($50 from Apple), there's lots of room to say, make more than one length available, or maybe other manufacturers. I mean, they're active cables, so that should count as a 'device' right?

    Then there's all the mini-DisplayPort adaptors now rebranding themselves as 'thunderbolt' adaptors ... so there's a couple dozen right there ... (VGA, DVI-D, DVI-DL, miniHDMI, etc .. and those are already available from more than one

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @12:56PM (#39659989)

    Thuderbolt just extends the PCIe bus to external devices, with all the speed and flexibility that entails, no biggie, right? Sure, it means you really could get rid of all the other ports completely and use a breakout cable if necessary (only in the interim as other types of ports might just go away), making devices much smaller and simpler. But we don't want fantastic new things, we just want solid legacy support for 10 - 20 year old standards.

    Really. All a geek should need to know is "externalize PCIe". All the speed of an internal bus (and more) without having to physically put the card into the machine, and even being able to do it at a distance. Greater modularity, better performance. But apparently it's bad to have newer, better things, when we could just stick with the older, crappier. Right?

    • So by taking the stuff out of the computer, and putting it into other "stuff", we are going to create an explosion of soul-sucking, space-sucking, power-sucking transformers and cheap little crappy enclosures for externalized ports.
      That is until some vendor says: "Hey, let me put all those external ports you need into one box for you!"
      And then the next vendor says: "Hey, let me put those ports in the monitor for you"
      And then the next vendor says: "Hey, my monitor and computer are the same box, so lets

    • by pla (258480) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:31PM (#39660743) Journal
      All a geek should need to know is "externalize PCIe". All the speed of an internal bus (and more) without having to physically put the card into the machine, and even being able to do it at a distance.

      You left out "insanely expensive active cabling, safely locked up under patent for its entire realistic lifetime".

      This will survive right up until people actually take notice, buy something using it, then shit a uranium brick when they go to buy a longer cord.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sure, it means you really could get rid of all the other ports completely and use a breakout cable if necessary (only in the interim as other types of ports might just go away), making devices much smaller and simpler.

      Perhaps, if you like the idea of having 8 different boxes on your desk and a rats nest of cables. Does that sound smaller and simpler?

      All a geek should need to know is "externalize PCIe".

      Exactly, there's nothing new to be excited about here. It's just the same old shit on an external port.

      Al

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:44PM (#39661013)

      You realize a device on the PCIe bus can do ANYTHING to a system, right? At that low a level it has complete access to memory, it can crash your system, or worse, and there's shit you can do about it. That's part of the reason for USB to be like it is. It provides very high level access, it is all controlled through the CPU. Means a lot of overhead, but also more security.

      Also there's the fact that TB costs a whole lot more to implement in devices. USB slave devices are dumb, most of the logic is on the master, the computer. Not the case with PCIe, you need more logic to work on the bus, so shit will cost more.

      It has its place, potentially, don't get me wrong. But this idea that it'll replace everything is silly. You don't want a TB mouse. You want a USB mouse.

  • Baron Zemo said the same thing, then he sold the whole team out to S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • by Tanman (90298) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:08PM (#39660227)

    With direct pci access, how does this open up computer monitors as a new attack vector? I can see it now:

    Step 1) Buy computer monitor
    Step 2) Modify and return said monitor
    Step 3) Someone plugs "open box" or "refurbished" monitor into their computer
    Step 4) Profit!

  • In January, Intel said 24 manufacturers embraced Thunderbolt, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, Seagate, Western Digital and LaCie among them.

    Intel now says that the number of design wins will reach 100 this year.

    http://www.wirelessdesignmag.com/ShowPR.aspx?PUBCODE=055&ACCT=0000100&ISSUE=1201&RELTYPE=CES&PRODCODE=000000&PRODLETT=IS&CommonCount=0 [wirelessdesignmag.com]

  • Will be new Apple computer, iDevices, and Intel notebooks. It won't be made by any other manufacturer than those two.

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