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Intel hindering USB 3.0 adoption, alleges industry insider

SuperSpeed won't hit the mainstream until 2011

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Intel has decided to wait until 2011 before it introduces PC chipsets with integrated USB 3.0 controllers. So a senior mole at a major PC maker has claimed, at any rate.

The insider this week told EETimes the move will push demand for the 4.8Gb/s bus technology back a year.

Even if Intel is anticipating that USB 3.0 chipsets won't debut until 2011, that doesn't prevent other chipset makers doing so themselves, or third-party silicon designers implementing suitable controllers that bridge the new bus and a computer's system logic.

The USB 3.0 - aka SuperSpeed USB - specification was finalised almost a year ago, in November 2008. Some months earlier, Intel released an initial eXtensible Host Controller Interface (XHCI) specification which, it said, will allow chipset makers to develop hardware that can communicate with USB 3.0 in a standardised, consistent way. It was subsequently revised in the light of the release of the final SuperSpeed spec.

The XHCI was something chipset makers AMD and Nvidia had been crying out for, stating they needed it to jumpstart support for USB 3.0 in their own chipsets.

Right now, both NEC and Fujitsu are shipping SuperSpeed controller chips, and devices have already begun to be announced. These are likely to come with ExpressCard USB 3.0 adaptors, at least initially.

That will suit some early adopters, but the mole's argument is that widespread adoption won't take place until SuperSpeed is in the chipset. He claims Intel's chipset designers are focused on improving the Nehalem CPU architecture's new QPI and DMI buses, and on implementing double-speed, 5GHz PCI Express 2.0 and 6Gb/s Sata. Intel believes USB 3.0 is less of a priority than these, the mole claimed. That, he says, is wrong.

But Intel may not be alone. AMD hasn't said much about its own chipset roadmap, but alleged leaks earlier this year claimed its SB800 southbridge chip, which is due out this quarter in the RD890 chipset, is designed to support 6Gb/s Sata but only USB 2.0. AMD won't support USB 3.0 until 2011, it was claimed, with the SB900 part. ®

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