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Can lightning strike twice? Intel has another crack at Thunderbolt

Chipzilla doubles speed to 20Gbps. Checkmate, USB 3

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It was a bolt from the blue that failed to electrify the computer market.

But despite Thunderbolt's very limited success, Intel is building a new version of the high-speed data-transfer interface - and it's persuaded at least two manufacturers to start using the new tech.

Code-named Falcon Ridge, Thunderbolt 2 will run at 20Gb/s, twice as fast as Intel's first effort, and works by combining the two 10Gb/s channels that are independent in the current iteration.

It was originally unveiled at the NAB Show in April. Now hardware manufacturers LaCie and Blackmagic Design have stepped forward to promise they'll design their products using Thunderbolt 2. LaCie is noted for its rugged hard disk drives, and Blackmagic Design makes various gubbins aimed at the film industry.

Intel boasted that Thunderbolt now comes as standard on more than 30 PCs, and said 80 peripherals now use the connection, which doesn't sound all that impressive considering there are at least 590 USB 3 products on sale now, according to figures [PDF] published by the USB Implementers Forum last year.

Thunderbolt 2 uses a bi-directional channel that supports both data and video display, allowing simultaneous 4K video file transfer and a display signal. Intel claims the "eye-popping" bandwidth of their new tech will aid the rollout of ultra high-definition 4K video across the film production industry.

Full backwards compatibility with current Thunderbolt peripherals has been promised, which will come as fantastic news to the small numbers of people who own them.

Chipzilla claimed that Thunderbolt would allow petabytes of data to be backed up in "minutes, not hours".

“By combining 20Gb/s bandwidth with DisplayPort 1.2 support, Thunderbolt 2 creates an entirely new way of thinking about 4K workflows; specifically, the ability to support raw 4K video transfer and data delivery concurrently,” said Jason Ziller, Marketing Director for Thunderbolt at Intel.

“And our labs aren’t stopping there, as demand for video and rich data transfer just continues to rise exponentially,” Ziller added

Apple clearly saw some potential in Thunderbolt, sticking a port on all of its current line of computers and introducing a super-pricey display using the technology, which costs £899 from the Apple store.

Production of Thunderbolt 2 will start before the end of this year, and will increase throughout 2014. ®

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