Newly released images of presumably the forthcoming Macbook Pro laptop and its box reveal that the new notebooks from Apple will support a high-speed I/O port called Thunderbolt. This may confirm that the new lineup of mobile computers will indeed support Intel Corp.’s Light Peak standard.
The Thunderbolt connector is described as a “port support[ing] high-speed I/O and Mini DisplayPort devices”. The connector itself does not resemble those USB-like Light Peak connectors demonstrated by Intel earlier and looks more like a mini DisplayPort, which may be explained by the fact that neither the Light Peak standard nor connector have been finalized so far.
The images revealed by Fscklog web-site do not reveal any actual specifications about the port, such as the bandwidth it provides as well as other important details, such as what for it is actually needed. It is also unclear whether Apple has plans to release any actual devices compatible with Thunderbolt.
It is necessary to note that despite of wide belief, Thunderbolt may not be actually an implementation of Light Peak, but a new proprietary port from Apple that may only partly utilize the technology developed by Intel and will thus be completely incompatible with devices that will comply to the finalized LightPeak standard when it becomes available.
The rumours that Intel wanted to bring LightPeak to market as soon as possible have been around for many quarters. Recently Intel officially confirmed that in order to release Light Peak commercially in 2011 it needed to use copper wires instead of fiber optics to make the technology more affordable, but sacrifice a significant portion of performance and versatility of the technology. The first version of Light Peak was supposed to have 10Gb/s bandwidth over distances up to 100 meters, two times higher than the maximum bandwidth of USB 3.0 (which maximum distance is 1.5 - 2 meters). With copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great, according Intel. Still, very few devices, apart from external graphics cards or solid-state drives may actually need speeds like 10Gb/s.
Apple and Intel did not comment on the news-story.