During the IDF conference which took place earlier this month, Intel revealed that is working on introducing two new Thunderbolt controllers in 2012, but it now turns out that the Santa Clara chip maker will actually release a third such IC, which is specially designed for low-cost Thunderbolt devices.
Intel is currently offering two Thunderbolt chipsets to its partners, known as Light Ridge and Eagle Ridge.
The first one of these is quad bi-directional 10Gbps channels, capable of delivering an aggregate bandwidth of 80Gbps, as well as with two DisplayPorts outputs, while the latter is destined to be used in more compact devices and it packs only two 10Gbps bi-directional Thunderbolt channels and a single DisplayPort output.
Intel doesn't plan to take these chipsets out of production anytime soon, but it will progress towards releasing smaller and cheaper solutions, and these are expected to arrive next year.
Dubbed Cactus Ridge, the controllers will feature the same specs as the current Light Ridge and Eagle Ridge chipsets, but they will use a smaller package that measures 12x12mm.
According to some newly uncovered information however, the two Cactus Ridge controllers won't be the only two Thunderbolt chipsets to be released by Intel as the company also plans a third IC.
This will be called Port Ridge and, at 5x6mm, is going to be the smallest Thunderbolt chipser to be released, while it will also become the slowest since in includes only a single Thunderbolt channel.
Due to this design choice, Port Ridge only supports two lanes of PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth and it lacks support for pass-through connectivity.
Despite this limitation, Port Ridge could prove to be extremely popular as is expected to be priced according to its features, making it a good choice for devices that don't require more than PCI Express x1 speeds.
According to VR-Zone, Port Ridge should be in production before the end of the year, so the first solutions to use this controller could arrive early in 2012.