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Intel already working on Thunderbolt successor for 2015

Second generation Thunderbolt will be based on silicon and will offer up to 5 times the transfer speeds of the current copper-based Thunderbolt iteration

While the Thunderbolt port was just launched for the 2011 lineup of MacBook Pros earlier this year, Intel is reportedly hard at work on its successor for a 2015 release.

During a Wednesday press conference in New York, Intel strategy director of circuits Jeff Demain gave some insight on what to expect from the next Thunderbolt port. The new technology will be based on silicon with optical components, allowing for up to a theoretical 50 gigabits/sec over up to 100 meters. In comparison, the current copper-based Thunderbolt technology can only carry data of up to 10 Gigabits/sec.

Additionally, Demain claims that the new silicon-based Thunderbolt will actually cost less to manufacture than the current iteration found in the 2011 MacBook Pros. This is accomplished by using the now common silicon manufacturing techniques for creating the necessary components. “That’s what the promise of the technology is. It is based on a silicon foundation.”

Of course, the new second-generation Thunderbolt port is still under development, but Intel was able to provide mock-ups of the actual cable during its press conference. According to PCWorld, we can expect the cables to be even thinner and more flexible than USB 3.0.

What Intel hopes to achieve with the future Thunderbolt port is to allow for video streaming at levels surpassing 1080p resolutions for televisions and set-top devices. The chipmaker is also looking for ways to shrink the Thunderbolt components in order to implement the technology into smaller devices, such as external HDDs, smartphones, and tablets.

With Intel’s future Thunderbolt plans revealed, it’s likely that the new data transfer port won’t be going anyway anytime soon. Its coexistence with USB 3.0 is also looking all the more probable. Let’s hope that Thunderbolt will start showing up in more devices soon with increased and better peripheral support.


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Allen Ngo, 2011-04-29 (Update: 2018-06-28)