Intel to Send Thunderbolt Development Kits to Interested Parties

Intel: We Are Committed to Support Both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt

by Anton Shilov
04/13/2011 | 02:50 PM

Intel Corp. on Wednesday said that it will begin sending Thunderbolt development kits to interested parties seeking to develop TB interconnection technology with their devices or hardware. At the same time, Intel re-emphasized its commitment to USB 3.0 and promised to support it in next-year's client platforms.


"Intel is sending Thunderbolt development kits out to interested parties to help foster the Thunderbolt ecosystem," said Dave Salvator, a spokesman for Intel.

The official for the world's largest maker of microprocessors did not elaborate whether the company is looking forward development of software capable of taking advantage of Thunderbolt, or is more interested in broad TB-featuring hardware availability.

Also, Intel - for the first time - officially confirmed its plans to integrate USB 3.0 support into its client platforms in 2012, hence, the company's 7-series chipsets code-named Panther Point will fully support the new mainstream interconnection and will co-exist.

"Intel is going to support USB 3.0 in the 2012 client platforms. We are going to support Thunderbolt capability. We believe that [these technologies] are complementary. We encourage those working on PC peripherals to engage on both the USB 3.0 and Thubnderbolt," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president of the Intel architecture group and general manager of Intel's data center group, during his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing, China.

The Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 technologies are too different to compete directly, especially because the former is not backwards compatible with the majority of existing peripherals. As a result, Intel simply cannot replace USB 3.0, but it is evident that the TB will be evolving rapidly and someday it may take place of the Universal Serial Bus.

Previously known as Light Peak, Thunderbolt technology supports two low-latency communications protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Thunderbolt technology works on data streams in both directions, at the same time, so users get the benefit of full bandwidth in both directions, over a single cable. With the two independent channels, a full 10Gb/s of bandwidth can be provided for the first device in the chain of the devices. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common Mini DisplayPort connector. Intel's Thunderbolt controllers interconnect a PC and other devices, transmitting and receiving packetized traffic for both PCIe and DisplayPort protocols and thus makers need to develop or use additional controllers to make their products compatible with the TB I/O interface.

Not a lot of devices these days can take advantage of Thunderbolt. Only external graphics cards, external solid-state drives as well as RAID-based storage solutions, professional equipment and some other applications need 10Gb/s demand. As a result, USB 3.0, which can theoretically provide up to 5Gb/s bandwidth, will continue to serve the majority of devices that exist today.