The next USB specification is finally complete, according to an announcement (PDF) by the USB Implementers Forum. Known alternatively as USB 3.0 and SuperSpeed USB (the latter being the official trademark), the new spec promises both ten times the bandwidth of USB 2.0 and backwards compatibility with current devices.
Now that the completed spec is available to developers, the USB Implementers Forum expects SuperSpeed USB-capable consumer products to follow within a year or two:
It is anticipated that initial SuperSpeed USB discrete controllers will appear in the second half of 2009 and consumer products will appear in 2010, with adoption continuing throughout 2010. The first SuperSpeed USB devices will likely include data-storage devices such as flash drives, external hard drives, digital music players and digital cameras.
Intel's original announcement (PDF) said the USB 3.0 spec would feature optimizations for low power consumption, "improved protocol efficiency," and support for optical connections. With a top theoretical transfer speed of 4.8Gbps, USB 3.0 might enable file transfer speeds of a few hundred megs per second. That could make it an interesting competitor to external Serial ATA for hooking up speedy external storage—among other things. Both Serial ATA and FireWire should get speed boosts by the time SuperSpeed USB devices start showing up, though.