When it comes to universal connectivity, USB 3.0 is on the top of the popularity polls, with its speed of 5Gbps that lets any data transfer be accomplished ten times faster than it would be possible on USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, this new standard hasn't seen the widespread adoption it could have, mostly because of the lack of native chipset support for it. In fact, Intel doesn't plan on adding such native support to its core-logic until the second half of 2011 and has not exactly fully explained why. Nevertheless, considering a certain project that the Santa Clara company is working on, and the rate at which it is developing, end-users can spot what may be part of the chip giant's reasoning.
Intel is working
on a connectivity standard of its own, based on optical technology, which will supposedly be able to reach speeds, initially, of 10Gbps. End-users will likely immediately notice that this is twice the speed enabled by the SuperSpeed standard, which has only just begun to make its mark on the world.
Light Peak can achieve this performance thanks to using, instead of electrical cables, the optical technology. One of the major advantages of the technology is that, while it will be compatible with USB 3.0 connectors, the actual connector size can be scaled “way, way down,” which means that the connection should be brought even to handheld devices. The other advantage is that the 10Gbps rate will supposedly scale up to ten times over the next ten years.
“We view this as a logical future successor to USB 3.0,” Kevin Kahn, an Intel senior fellow, said in a speech at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). “In some sense we'd... like to build the last cable you'll ever need.”
Naturally, such a standard would most likely have to compete with existing connectivity solutions, but Intel assures us that, in fact, Light Peak will be compatible and complementary to USB 3.0 ports, not competitive. The company even demonstrated this at IDF through using a laptop connected to a docking station and a monitor. The long, thin cable plugged into the laptop's USB 3.0 port (with added components that allowed it to receive optical signal). In this setup, Light Peak was able to simultaneously transmit a feed from an HD camera, a Blu-ray video and a duplication of the laptop's display onto the other screen.
The report mentions that Intel will work towards turning Light Peak into a standard, with an industry group promoting it expected to launch next year. Intel also intends to see whether the science can be used to improve data centers and, overall, hopes that this innovation will mark a crossover from electrical to optical connectors. The only limitation that seems to make a dent in the perfect picture, at this point, is the inability of the optical fiber to power connected devices, as opposed to USB 3.0 cables that achieve this feat with no problems.