Intel's Light Peak May See the Light This Week

Apple May Install Light Peak Controller onto New Macbook Pro Machines

by Anton Shilov
02/22/2011 | 08:52 PM

Intel Corp. may formally introduce the first commercial implementation of the already well-known Light Peak interface as early as this Thursday. Moreover, Apple can be the first implementer of the technology with its new breed of Macbook Pro notebooks.


On Thursday the world's largest chipmaker, according to a media report, will host at least two briefings dedicated to the Light Peak interconnection technology that "about to appear on the market" Apple is also projected to formally unveil its new Macbook Pro notebooks later this week, also on Thursday.

The new Apple Macbook Pro notebooks are projected to be based on Intel Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" processors, feature a new graphics technology, a hybrid storage sub-system featuring both flash and traditional hard drive, as well as one or more Light Peak connectors in order to enable rapid transfer of data from external devices into the new laptops.

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 fiber optics cable it should be possible to increase the bandwidth of LightPeak to  up to 100Gb/s eventually, according to earlier claims. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great, according Intel. Earlier rumours claims that it should be possible to transfer data at up to 10Gb/s over copper wires.

Fiber optics are very expensive at present and it is natural that hardware makers would prefer to avoid them. At the same time, new interconnection naturally attracts attention of consumers and catalyzes them to upgrade their hardware, for example, digital cameras or external storage devices. Perhaps, in order to kick off the adoption of LightPeak by end-users, manufacturers need to make the technology as affordable as possible, which is why they decided to use copper

It is necessary to note that Macbook Pro line alone will not help to popularize the technology given their very low market share. Naturally, some devices with Light Peak will still reach store shelves as manufacturers will try to offer something brand new to the market. Still, very few devices, apart from external graphics cards or solid-state drives may actually need speeds like 10Gb/s. At the same time, the cost of USB 3.0-enabled devices has been decreasing and end-users may prefer to stick with the standard that offers 5Gb/s maximum speed at a very low cost.

Apple and Intel did not comment on the news-story.