While much of the discussion of next-gen peripheral interfaces is focused on how and when Intel will dip into USB 3.0 territory, the company's Light Peak optical interface has started appearing in prototype devices at IDF. Engadget has been touring the show floor, and it's run into a number of implementations ranging from notebooks to external hard drives and RAID arrays. The demo hardware on display isn't necessarily slated for mass production, although the site says we can expect Light Peak products to arrive "sometime next year."
The current iteration of Intel's optical interconnect is slated to offer 10Gbps of bandwidth—twice the throughput of USB 3.0, which is limited to 5Gbps per port. Devices that require more bandwidth than SuperSpeed provides might be few and far between, especially on the desktop, where external storage usually favors redundancy over raw speed. You're going to need quite a lot of PCI Express lanes to keep up with a full-speed Light Peak link, too.
With those requirements in mind, it seems unlikely that Light Peak will supplant SuperSpeed USB in consumer products, at least in the near term. Optical connectivity is the future, though, and it's nice to see that WD, LaCie, and Compal all have working prototypes ready to showcase.
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