Thunderbolt to go optical in 2012, says Intel
Up to a point, Lord Copper
Optical Thunderbolt cabling will become available this year, Intel, the chip maker behind the high-speed bus technology, has said.
Thunderbolt - aka 'Light Peak' - links are currently limited to copper cables, but the spec has always presented optical as an option. As is stands, the technology offers data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps, well in excess of the likes of Firewire and USB 3.0.
Adding optical links would initially only increase the distance over which Thunderbolt cables can be strung, but Intel spokesman Dave Salavtore, speaking to Macworld, said the technology will evolve to deliver faster data rates over optical than copper.
Inside Apple's copper Thunderbolt cable
The downside, he admitted, would be an end to bus-powered gadgetry. Copper cabling can deliver 10W of power.
The first optical cables are expected to incorporate light transceiver circuitry, allowing them to slotted into existing Thunderbolt ports.
Apple's Mac line are currently the only machines that support Thunderbolt, but other vendors are expected to offer the technology this year when Windows gains support. Acer, Asus and Lenovo have lined up behind the bus.
Earlier this week, Intel said it will incorporate the PCI Express 3.0 internal bus standard into Thunderbolt, the better to up the external bus' throughput. Thunderbolt currently uses PCIe 2.0.
Version 3.0 supports up to eight billion data one-way transfers per second, up from five billion in the current implementation. ®
Hang on, why does this mean an end to bus powered devices?
Sure, you're putting light down an optical cable, and you can't draw pwoer from that. But what is stopping you from creating a cable that has a fiber optic line for data and a copper line for power? The connector will be the same, so you just route the power to appropiate pins, and you're sorted.
Re: @ Charles 9
resistance is useless.
Yeah, but the guy has a point. Just because an optical cable is in there, it doesnt mean that some sort of conductive material can be used to power devices from the bus.
That's lovely, but can we please can this standard become more widespread so that everyone can take advantage? Then it would also be nice to get some more high speed devices available.
Not just for gadgets
How about remote keyboard and screens? The return of the the multi-user computer, anyone?
The connections may not be cheap for plugging in your phone but spread the cost of a one pc across several users and televisions and things begin to even out. (Less so since the advent of cheap linux mini-systems, but you get the idea): Who wants a smart TV when I can put it on the end of a 100m optical link and back it with a 12-core mac (running linux obviously), which can also transcode, play games and run windows in a VM for different users at the same time.
How about plugging my dinky work laptop with rubbish GMA chipset into my stonking home system and just passing keyboard, mouse and video over lightpeak without involving the laptop processor. Then I can play on my home box's gaming graphics system with my work screen. Cool.
Just dreaming I suppose...