USB 3.0 controversy: Intel defends itself

Last week, we pointed to a report that said AMD, Nvidia, and VIA could make a separate USB 3.0 specification. Quoting unnamed sources, the report suggested that Intel was withholding the spec from competitors—something it had no good reason to do, since USB 3.0 intellectual property allegedly originated in large part from the PCI Special Interest Group.

Intel’s Nick Knupffer has now responded to the article, and his take on the situation differs quite radically. He says the original report fails to distinguish between the USB 3.0 specification itself and Intel’s USB 3.0-compatible Host Controller specification. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group will release the USB 3.0 spec in the second half of this year, and Intel is investing “gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours” to make sure its Host Controller spec is ready in time.

Knupffer defines the Host Controller spec as “a ‘Dummies Guide’ to building a USB 3.0 compatible piece of silicon.” Intel reportedly plans to make the HC spec available “early in second half of 2008 with a no-royalty licensing obligation,” allowing competitors to avoid “repeating the massive investment undertaken by Intel.” However, Knupffer says the spec isn’t ready yet, and Intel doesn’t want to release it ahead of schedule for fear of potential compatibility snags. Knupffer adds that the USB 3.0 spec “has not borrowed heavily from the PCI-SIG,” either.

Comments closed
    • axeman
    • 11 years ago

    If this is a controller spec as opposed to changing the specs of the bus, who cares? Look at AHCI. I don’t remember anyone else putting effort into designing a spec for SATA controllers.

    • pogsnet
    • 11 years ago
    • pluscard
    • 11 years ago

    What did you expect him to say – they’re being investigated by 4 world bodies for antitrust right now!

    • tay
    • 11 years ago

    when will these stupid donkeys make a plug that works either way? I hate the stupid usb plugs where I get the top/bottom wrong almost 50% of the time.

    At least Apple knows how to make a plug (insert joke no pun intended).

      • matic
      • 11 years ago

      I feel your pain, each time I plug the USB cable the wrong way it comes the father of all resets and two good reboots to get the Folding right on track…

    • Krogoth
    • 11 years ago

    Too bad that USB 3.0 is mostly irrelevant.

    What does it do over USB 2.0? More bandwidth. What mainstream device that needs more bandwidth? External HDDs. There are other high-bandwidth interfaces already available with external HDDs (IEE1394, eSATA).

    Intel is just shooting itself in the foot for no real reason. The reason why USB itself is so widespread is because it was cheap and open. It had very little to do with Intel.

      • bhtooefr
      • 11 years ago

      Actually, no, not even hard drives.

      Hard drives are bottlenecked by spindle speed, not by the interface, except for bursts.

        • crazybus
        • 11 years ago

        Are you talking about sustained transfer rates or actual bursts? Drives connected via an external bus are likely used for data storage or backup making STR arguably more important than random access, which USB does not inhibit. My WD 640GB drive is capable of average sustained read speeds 3x what the USB2 drive enclosure I have hooked up can do. I would call that limiting.

    • pdjblum
    • 11 years ago

    I certainly would not make something I developed with my own money available for free to my competitiors. Intel is supposed to be in business to make money; they are supposed to reap the rewards of their investments. I don’t get what this is all about. Why don’t they just give away the specs to nehalem to amd and tell them they are free to produce and market it? BTW, I don’t see nvidia making sli available to intel.

      • leor
      • 11 years ago

      USB is SUPPOSED to be an open standard. If they wanted to develop something proprietary they should have come up with something separate like firewire.

        • Price0331
        • 11 years ago

        Exactly, USB is something that has been shared throughout many developers, It’s not their tech, It’s simply them trying to come up with a new standard without informing others that worked on the original.

        Intel is basically trying to gobble up money from all of its competitors anyway it can.

        • Kurlon
        • 11 years ago

        USB 3.0 is an open spec. Inel is coming up with a controller spec to talk USB 3.0, so you can either use it, or design your own controller, either way perhiperals will still spricken zee USB3.0.

        Think OHCI vs UHCI from the 1.1 era. Both provided the same ports, but presented different driver interfaces. By adhering to one spec or the other, many companies could make USB controllers that the generic drivers could operate.

    • snowboard9
    • 11 years ago

    I can’t figure out why Intel doesn’t just hand over technology and work from their labs over to AMD and NVidia immediately. Their website clearly says they are a charitable organization.

    • Xenolith
    • 11 years ago

    Just so long as the spec is backward compatible, I’ll be happy.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    DDR2 is to DDR3 as USB2.0 is to…

    • Convert
    • 11 years ago

    “gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours”

    This guy is totally senator material.

      • ludi
      • 11 years ago


    • MadManOriginal
    • 11 years ago

    ‘gazillions and bazillions’ eh? From his profile he has held various technical, marketing and PR positions at Intel. I’d suspect more of the latter given his highly technical estimate of the investment.

      • green
      • 11 years ago

      just think of it like “opening a can of whup-ass” on a project


    • herothezero
    • 11 years ago

    Wow…how…um, magnanimous of Intel.

      • Kraft75
      • 11 years ago

      Ginormous contribution.

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