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Why USB Wins Over Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt is the new technology by Apple which is claiming better performance and speed then our new USB 3 specification.  It all looks good on paper and plan, but will reality let Thunderbolt win?

Thunderbolt is the copper wire version of Intel’s Lightpeak technology.  Thunderbolt will produce transfer rates equal to 10Gbps which is about double of what USB 3 will offer. Apple convinced Intel to create a “cut-back” version of their optical light solution with an additional caveat of being the exclusive personal computer manufacturer to offer Thunderbolt.  And this is where the problem lies.

As with USB 1 verse Firewire [Apple] the speeds of Firewire where faster than USB 1, but FireWire equipment was more expensive, Apple charged what was considered a substantial royalty per part, and with Macs in general holding much less of the market, meanwhile the Windows-side controllers and drivers for Firewire ran the gamut from lousy to terrible.

Intel and Apple jointly developed Thunderbolt, which may actually be part of the problem.  As of June 2011, Apple is the only company committed to using Thunderbolt.  HP has officially selected USB 3 and we suspect Dell will not be far behind.  After all, these guys don’t like to support a technology to a competitive company which holds exclusive usage rights.

Cost of Thunderbolt is another hurtle for the standard.  Currently, peripheral makers don’t know an exact cost to build support for Thunderbolt.  Right now, Matrox is claiming Thunderbolt adapters in the range of $299.  Matrox is claiming devices with Thunderbolt technology already built in will run north of $600 for users.  These are significant price challenges for a plug-and-play solution, especially in these economic times.

HP’s worldwide marketing representative, Xavier Lauwaert, was quoted saying:

“We did look at Thunderbolt. We’re still looking into it. Haven’t found a value proposition yet. On the PC side, everybody seems to be content with the expansion of USB 3.0. Do we need to go into more fancy solutions? Not convinced yet.”

What do you think?

Source:  HotHardware.com and ExtremeTech.com.

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