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Intel Networking Upgrades Hardware Technology Apple

Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+? 355

Lucas123 writes: "The USB SuperSpeed+ spec (a.k.a. v3.1) offers up to 10Gbps throughput. Combine that with USB's new C-Type Connector, the specification for which is expected out in July, and users will have a symmetrical cable and plug just like Thunderbolt but that will enable up to 100 watts of power depending on the cable version. So where does that leave Thunderbolt, Intel's other hardware interconnect? According to some analysts, Thunderbolt withers or remains a niche technology supported almost exclusively by Apple. Even as Thunderbolt 2 offers twice the throughput (on paper) as USB 3.1, or up to 20Gbps, USB SuperSpeed+ is expected to scale past 40Gbps in coming years. 'USB's installed base is in the billions. Thunderbolt's biggest problem is a relatively small installed base, in the tens of millions. Adding a higher data throughput, and a more expensive option, is unlikely to change that,' said Brian O'Rourke, a principal analyst covering wired interfaces at IHS."
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Can Thunderbolt Survive USB SuperSpeed+?

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  • by WilliamGeorge ( 816305 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:16AM (#46996301)

    I figured that all along. It took off on Apple hardware, with almost no pickup on normal PCs. That has finally started to happen a little - some upper end motherboards have 1 or 2 Thunderbolt ports now, and Asus has an add-on board for a few others - but it is really a niche thanks to its odd hardware requirements and lack of early adoption outside of Apple. USB is easier to use, and at least up to 3.0 has been backward compatible with older devices. With an even faster option, as long as they don't screw something up, I don't see how USB could not continue to be the leading connectivity standard.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:17AM (#46996307)

    I have a really hard time caring about "up to 100 watts of power depending on the cable version", mostly because of the "depending on the cable version" part of the statement.

    How is this different from DVI, which much or might not have multichannel audio, might or might not be analog, might or might not support 5 channel digital sound, etc., etc.?

    One thing Thunderbolt has going for it is that a cable is a cable, and you don't have to worry about it. If you want negotiated power supplied over USB, fine, but don't make me search my cardboard box for the "most sincere USB 3.1 cable". Thanks.

  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`moc.stiucricve' `ta' `ive'> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:30AM (#46996343) Homepage

    The problem with all USB to this point is the fact that it has been largely CPU bound. PCIe, Thunderbolt, SCSI, FireWire are DMA devices, not without it's risks but with proper management the performance is leaps and bounds above USB - sure it costs a little extra but that point quickly becomes moot when you see the benefits.

    USB is fine for mice and keyboards and some other low-bandwidth and very cheap things. FireWire has been doing low-latency audio and video (high-res) since it's inception. Even full-speed USB2 on a modern computer has difficulties getting a VGA frame buffer to work properly while studios have been able to live-edit multiple streams using FireWire since the PowerMac G5.

  • by stoploss ( 2842505 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:31AM (#46996351)

    Thunderbolt 2 allows me to connect a 4k DisplayPort screen (or daisy chain two lower resolution DisplayPort monitors). Its connector is the same as mini-DisplayPort. It's small and convenient. Apple fit two TB 2 buses next to each other on my 13" MacBook Pro. Nice. Very high bandwidth, PCIe.

    I don't want to plug a keyboard into this bus, because its overkill. Thunderbolt will probably never have any cost effective way to do a hub/star type topography. For general use lower bandwidth (haha, 1 gigabit is low bandwidth now!) peripherals I need USB. And my MacBook has that too. I wouldn't want it any other way.

    That said, USB 3.0 seems like a ball of hurt compared to the difference between USB 1.0/1.1/2.0
      Just look at the ads for USB 3 hubs. Most of them state which chipset revision they use, so you can look up whether or not your motherboard / OS will have difficulty with them. I built a FreeBSD 9.1 file server using usb 3 / usb 3 docks, but I failed them all back down to using their 2.0 interface due to persistent flakiness/dropping off the bus type issues. Rock solid on USB 2.0. YMMV, but I hope that USB 3 gets over its growing pains soon.

  • by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:22AM (#46996555)

    I don't think devices outside of mass storage really call for USB 3.0. Many keyboards still use USB 1.1, even today, because they don't need anything more advanced.

  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @01:59AM (#46996717) Journal

    That we keep talking about the two in language that exactly describes the two, but we completely ignore the language?
    EVERY spec for USB refers to the "up to" speed and quotes the maximum theoretical burst transfer rate that is sustainable for only fractions of a second in host to single peer communication.
    Thunderbolt's speed is the speed. period. 1 peer or 16 peers doesn't matter. You get 20Gb/s every second after every second. USB has never and is likely to never achieve that.

    This was true of Firewire vs USB as well; USB claimed "up to 480Mb/s" but could never sustain that for any human sense-able time. Firewire 800 was flatly 400Mb/s. Firewire didn't advertise a theoretical maximum speed that you could get once in a while; it was a real-world measurable throughput when you were copying files.

    So as long as people are ignorant enough to fall for marketing hype instead of actual useful data then USB will continue to dominate (and people will continue to purchase cars based solely on HP ratings)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @03:25AM (#46996987)

    In the future, we will ship something WAY better than what Apple is shipping now, so obviously what Apple is shipping now is worthless.

    You're confusing usefulness with relevance. Thunderbolt is, and will reman, irrelevant to PCs, largely because PCs have plenty of internal expansion capability and sufficient USB ports, Display Ports, HDMI ports, etc.

  • Correlation is not causation. What really made USB popular was when 2.0 came out, which was developed mostly by Intel and HP. At that point you could connect hard drives and get reasonable speeds, and hardware costs for slow devices like keyboards dropped too as HP found a way to do the timing required for USB 1.1 cheaply.

  • by MrEdofCourse ( 2670081 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @05:14AM (#46997261) Homepage

    "Heck, wasn't the iSight the only webcam for Firewire? "

    Nope, not even close. Not only were there dedicated FireWire based webcams, but almost every digital video camera had FireWire (and could be used as a webcam) until they went from tape to flash/HD.

    People who see FireWire as some kind of failure must have been completely absent in the digital video industry for almost a decade.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @07:46AM (#46997769)

    I see a lot of concern here about backwards compatibility with any new interface. Why are we really concerned about this?

    Your brand new server with quad-port Gig-E interfaces still auto-negotiates down to 10Mb speeds. Why? Because you might hook up your new $10,000 server to a $20 network hub you bought off eBay? Uh...no.

    Apple had literally billions of devices in the market with the old sync connector. Then, they came out with an all-new connector, alienating entire lines worth of products. Did they go bankrupt? Was there some massive revolt in the industry? No, not quite.

    My point is we should learn to move on. Stop worrying about backwards compatibility to ensure that we address scenarios that rarely happen, if ever. What exactly was Thunderbolt compatible with when it came out? Or Firewire? Didn't stop them from innovating.

    Besides, there's a damn good chance that every single piece of computing hardware in your hands today will be replaced within 3-5 years, so I fail to see why we care even from a logistical standpoint. You won't even have the hardware in your hands to worry about backwards compatibility, and vendors will always see replacement as THE solution, so don't expect many long-term favors from them either.

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