USB 3.0, Thunderbolt are ‘complementary,’ says Intel

We already know AMD will offer USB 3.0 support in the chipsets that accompany its Llano processors later this year. What about Intel? According to CNet News, Intel VP Kirk Skaugen addressed that subject at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing… but didn’t stop there.

Skaugen reportedly stated, "Intel is going to support USB 3.0 in the 2012 client platform. We’re going to support Thunderbolt capability. We believe they’re complementary." He added, "We encourage all of you working on peripherals around the PC to engage on both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt."

Thunderbolt, of course, is the marketing name for Intel’s Light Peak technology, which premiered in Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops in February. Thunderbolt ports look just like DisplayPort, er, ports and can push up to 10 Gbps of bandwidth per channel. (Each of the MacBooks’ Thunderbolt ports has two channels.) Apple doesn’t seem to view Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 as complementary, though—at least not yet—because I’m not aware of any shipping Apple products with USB 3.0 support.

AMD, meanwhile, has gone on the record as downplaying the importance of Thunderbolt, pointing out that regular DisplayPort 1.2 connections allow higher bandwidth, and a single PCI Express 3.0 lane isn’t much slower, either. So far, AMD appears to sit firmly in the USB 3.0 camp.

Comments closed
    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    This is about just as complimentary as firewire is to USB. Thunderbolt is a terrible idea and adds more to the connection soup already available. Unfortunately it’s not going to die fast if Intel keeps pushing it, just the same as Apple pushing firewire.

      • mutarasector
      • 9 years ago

      It is indeed complimentary. The offset in current bandwidth and future scalability between the two standards practically >insures< a complimentary relationship. There’s no doubt TB/LP will scale up much further than USB will, but TB/LP will simply be overkill for many (if not most) peripherals. Therefore, the logic is that there is no real need for TB/LP for most peripherals. As Neelycam stated, TB/LP will become more of a specialty or niche high speed transport layer, particularly for peripherals that require long distance location. I agree with him on this, but the only place I’m not in agreement is that there will even be a USB “4” that will even come close to scaling up to what TB/LP will, or as fast as TB/LP will scale up.

      The trend here, is that the combination of >both< USB and TB/LP will be complimentary in that they’ll be able to split the bandwidth dependencies of attached peripherals based on bandwidth requirements best suited/served by each standard, but both standards combined will eventually eliminate the need for users to mount bandwidth intensive peripherals >internally< any longer. This will also help facilitate a major change in internal PSU designs as well (which we’re already beginning to see in single-voltage PSUs).

      Between this, and users migrating to more mobile computing platforms, the whole desktop paradigm is undergoing a major (and long overdue) change right before out eyes as we speak.

      .

        • Bensam123
        • 9 years ago

        You can say that because the spec for USB10 has been laid out the same as lightpeak has? Just because Intel has laid out plans N years in the future does not mean their technology is superior or will most definitely be better then something else. The USB standard may come out with ‘magic link’ down the line that will double the bandwidth of LP and do everything it does plus read your thoughts.

        Nothing that you’re saying can’t be covered by USB 3 or USB X. You’re simply buying into ‘future’ hype.

          • mutarasector
          • 9 years ago

          Re: “USB10”, or “USB X”.

          I’d prefer to use transporter technology (LP) too, but it doesn’t mean I still won’t have to continue to put up with airport security pat-downs/scans in the immediate future in order to get around the world, either. Nor does it mean that I wouldn’t prefer to have my own jet (TB), or at least fractional ownership of one in order to avoid those pat downs. Or you could take an ocean liner (USB), and travel in more comfort (albeit more slowly).

          If one wants to discuss USB’s theoretical future, that’s one thing. But the facts on the ground are that TB is here _now_, and appears to be poised as a very _cost effective_ PCIe replacement fairly soon (within 2-4 years). USB OTOH has always had longer development cycles, historically. There’s *nothing* to indicate this will change any time soon, either.

          But this aside, you seem to be caught up in this whole “USB vs. TB/LP” thing which is a false dichotomy. I’ve noticed that folks that fall into this mindset are motivated moreso out of some ‘fanboism’ than any rational, reasonable thought process. If they were indeed reasonable and rational, they realize the significance of the difference between TB/LP as a _transport layer_ and USB as a _serial *bus*_.

          It’s like an imposed arbitrary choice limited between “door #1” or “door #2”. Well “Bob”, I’ll take what’s behind “door #3”, thank you very much…

    • Johnny5
    • 9 years ago

    Hardly any plus or minus ratings on comments. How am I supposed to know what to think about people’s opinions without being told what to think?

      • Kharnellius
      • 9 years ago

      Does that help? 😉

        • Johnny5
        • 9 years ago

        Yeah, now I know not to listen to that Johnny5 guy. Now I’m primed to view his comment (-1 right now) in a negative light before I even start to read it.

        Really though the ratings system has its good points and bad points, it’s just that sometimes I find them too distracting.

      • crabjokeman
      • 9 years ago

      I love the ratings. +/-1 doesn’t tell you much, but more extreme ratings help one pick out the useful/informative posts.

    • mutarasector
    • 9 years ago

    “Thunderbolt, of course, is the marketing name for Intel’s Light Peak technology,”

    I get tired of reading this. Thunderbolt is NOT ‘Light Peak’. It’s COPPER PEAK – a back peddling dumbed down electrical form of LP. If Intel ever does come out with a real optical based interconnect that does NOT rely on embedding optic conversion in the >cable<, then and ONLY then will it truly be ‘Light Peak’. Even then, it would probably be better named “Lightning Bolt” in order to differentiate it from the slower electrically based hybrid DisplayPort/Copper Peak.

    • PRIME1
    • 9 years ago

    “AMD, meanwhile, has gone on the record as downplaying the importance of yet another feature they lack”

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      do you personally consider TB to be a big deal, prime? i’m just wondering if it’s your typical fanboism or if you actually think it’s going to matter.

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    Another nail in the Firewire/USB analogy……….

      • Corrado
      • 9 years ago

      Well, FIreWire was better for some things, storage being one of them. The problem was licensing fees to USE FireWire and it not being included in chipsets.

        • Voldenuit
        • 9 years ago

        FiWi was also better for media transfers, better for ad-hoc networking (which MS sadly removed in Vista), daisy-chaining, CPU usage and provided more power to peripherals (cf USB drives that needed 2 ports to power up).

        It was the licensing costs and chipset costs that kept it out of contention (blame Apple and Sony for this). Making the FiWi 800 connector physically incompatible with older plugs also didn’t help matters, but by then, FiWi was an also-ran.

      • crabjokeman
      • 9 years ago

      If you can make an analogy between Firewire/USB and Beta/VHS, the gerbil gods will smile upon you.

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    Complimentary? Like the VL-Bus and PCI Bus were complimentary. Like Firewire and USB were complimentary. Like HD-DVD and Blu-Ray were complimentary. Like IA-64 and AMD64 are complimentary. I think that’s about enough.

    No. USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt will not be complimentary. History shows that companies, in this case, motherboard and device makers, are gonna support one or the other, but seldom both. So either Thunderbolt will win this round, or USB 3.0 will. Time will tell.

      • DrkSide
      • 9 years ago

      I think USB 3.0 will win just for the fact that it is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. I mean how many USB 2.0 devices are out there that don’t need the speed of 3.0 but are still very useful.

        • UberGerbil
        • 9 years ago

        How many devices are out there that use USB strictly as a charging mechanism and don’t even transfer data? USB won’t die anytime in the foreseeable future because it’s become a de facto power cord/connector standard.

        • mutarasector
        • 9 years ago

        USB 3.0 vs Thunderbolt/Light Peak is a false dichotomy. The former is a bus, the latter is a transport-layer capable of supplanting the PCIe architecture/PCH controller entirely, They’re complimentary… which is a >good< thing.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    I’m not seeing much merit in Light Peak at this point.

      • demani
      • 9 years ago

      Just getting back from NAB where I saw several excellent uses of the TB port (though some could be refined). FC adapters, HD I/O boxes, better storage options, PCIe breakout boxes, all usable on a laptop now (whereas they required a desktop before). Good stuff for on-the-go video production. It isn’t going to be for everyone, but a TB port, ethernet port and a pair of USB 3 ports would be all I’d need on a laptop if there was a suitable dock, so it has some potential benefits even for regular users.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        Yep, Avid already supports a couple of PCI-e boxes for plugging in things like their Pro Tools HD|Native cards, as well. There are going to be professional uses for these ports, which means they’ll be around for quite a while.

        • Bensam123
        • 9 years ago

        Sooo… why can’t USB 3.0 be used for all those examples instead?

          • mutarasector
          • 9 years ago

          USB 3.0 just doesn’t have enough bandwidth scalability to hang PCIe boxes (presumably to support multiple PCIe devices) . Nor does Thunderbolt/CopperPeak (currently) for that matter, but ultimately Light Peak will.

            • Bensam123
            • 9 years ago

            And who says ultimately USBx won’t do the same?

            You can’t pit current technology against something that does not exist.

            • mutarasector
            • 9 years ago

            “You can’t pit current technology against something that does not exist.”

            Sure you can, if the choice is between going with something that exists _today_ as opposed to something that does not exist. We don’t have warp drive, transporters, or time machines either, but that doesn’t stop us from prefering to drive around in a Lamborghini rather than Honda >today<.

            The fact is that a serial based optic transmission layer (LP) will always scale up faster than an electrically based one (USB) simply because of increased noise immunity of the former over the latter. The optic transport layer also far exceeds the electrical serial bus distance or range limitation because of this. This is simple physics you can’t get around, either now *or* in the future.

            In short, the only thing _really_ holding back TB/LP is the _cost_ of the optics involved, because the OEM vendors are extremely cost conscious in a hyper-competitive industry. Intel, however, is moving rather quickly on this as we speak, and even the OEMs will eventually come around.

            This is not to say USB won’t scale up (it probably will), but it won’t exceed TB/LP scalability without breaking w/the past, and going optical itself. But then you lose backwards compatibility w/legacy USB devices, and the result is no longer truly USB, but a new standard that is simply rebadged as ‘USB’ at best. Some question the true ‘serial’ aspect of USB 3.0 *now* because of the extra data lines, but for it to stay in the realm of copper transport mediums, it would have to revert back to some form of parallel transmission again, which of course eliminates it from being a packetized serial bus, nor can be called “USB” any longer, and then we’re also back to UARTs and the like.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Thunderbolt/LightPeak might scale up in speed faster than USB, but I don’t think it matters. Thunderbolt will end up being a niche long-distance optical solution, while USB4 will be everywhere.

        • bcronce
        • 9 years ago

        Intel said that PCIe slots will be replaced with PCIe protocol over TB. I don’t see videocards ever connecting to your motherboard over USBX.0 as USB is not a low-level hardware link like TB.

        I’m not sure how “niche” TB will be once your video-card/harddrive/monitor all require it to connect to your computer.

          • flip-mode
          • 9 years ago

          It’ll be niche because that’ll likely never happen.

          Monitors already have DP, so no need for TB.

          A PCIeX16 slot already has about 12.8 times more bandwidth than a TB connection (1 / 1.25 * 16).

          External hard drives have 6Gbps SATA already, which is backwards compatible with SATA and SATA II.

          So while it’s sexy to have the same connector for all, it’s hard to get that kind of consolidation when there are already systems in place, and moreso when those systems are already superior.

          Thunderbolt has a long, long, long; steep, steep, steep climb ahead of it. It’s not impossible but the challenge of overtaking the momentum of the already established standards is enormous.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            IMO, having a “All in-one” the single connector is a bad idea from a troubleshooting and point of failure standpoint.

            Anything going wrong will require you to replace the cable/interface.

            Just another reason Intel would like to have a TB ecology…..

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            All that is true, but consolidation of cables would – in my opinion – be great. The rat’s nest behind my desktop is just nasty.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            Learn cable management.

            Cable ties are your friend.

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            I still prefer to do it all with a single cable.

            • Corrado
            • 9 years ago

            Do you prefer component cables + digital coax in a home theater or just an HDMI cable?

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            Analogy fails, you still need all the wiring for the speakers/sub.

            For a typical PC, you only need to make five separate connections at minimal. Power, monitor, 2-channel speakers/headphones, keyboard and mice. The color coded scheme and flat connections on modern interfaces are so simple that a preschooler can do it. Cable management isn’t that hard either. Most external PC peripherals typically use 6-foot (2m) cabling.

            IMHO, the trade-off for a sight increase in convenience with a “all-in-one” connector is not worth the troubleshooting headaches and having a single point of failure.

            • KoolAidMan
            • 9 years ago

            So you prefer all those component and RCA/TOSlink cables instead of a single HDMI cable in your home theater?

            Give me a break

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          If this is to replace any internal buses, it’d have to scale up the speed quite a bit.

          For external connections it would be fine, and I like the idea of a single cable daisy-chaining through my peripherals (e.g., a single wire plugging into my laptop/tablet, and connecting it to a monitor, LAN, mouse/keyboard, laptop charger, NAS…).

          My point is that although USB3 can’t do all this, USB4 might, and its non-proprietary nature (plus likely backwards compatibility) is going to make it a winner compared to TB. TB would be used with active optical cables for longer-distance connections (although I have hard time guessing what that would be… a 3D projector?)

            • mutarasector
            • 9 years ago

            Heh. Just thought of something. If it were daisy-chainable, what order do you chain peripherals in? monitor>LAN>RAID storage or RAID storage>LAN>monitor? This could be important in mission critical environments, no?

        • mutarasector
        • 9 years ago

        There’s no “maybe” about it Thunderolt/Light Peak is already faster than USB 3.0. The real question is will Intel ever release a true optical based ‘Light Peak’, and will other vendors support it – particularly AMD? Intel could (theoretically) go it alone without AMD I suppose, or w/a coalition even smaller than George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”, but then it has to convince OEM vendors to purchase Intel chipsets AND optic-coupler chips in order to support it. That could be a bit more difficult, but would be easier if both AMD and peripheral makers would follow suit. Of course, AMD is more than likely not enthused at the idea of paying its chief competitor more money for this, but they haven’t officially ‘poo-pooed’ the idea either. I think AMD is pretty much taking a hands-off wait-n-see approach, leaving the burden of getting Thunderbolt/LightPeak to achieve critical mass on Intel themselves and any other vendors willing to support it. If anything, AMD is being rather agnostic about it at this point.

        As for USB 4 “being everywhere”, please tell us the specifications for this rumored standard?

    • cfroese
    • 9 years ago

    So if they are complementary, then they shouldn’t compete with each other. And if they don’t compete, why the hell is Intel waiting so long to add USB 3.0 support? Are they waiting, hoping that waiting is going to make USB 3.0 expensive and thus make Light Peak more palatable?

      • Corrado
      • 9 years ago

      As originally conceived, they were competitive. As implemented, they are not.

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        I’m sure optical options are coming (TB2.0?). Electrical was good enough for now, and probably much cheaper.

          • Corrado
          • 9 years ago

          Well originally they said it would ‘support’ all existing connectivity options through various adapters. USB, FireWire, etc. As it stands, it doesn’t.

            • FuturePastNow
            • 9 years ago

            That’s mostly a matter of device makers looking at Thunderbolt and saying “meh.” All Thunderbolt really does- in its first iteration- is tunnel a PCIe lane through a cable, something that has been done before, but not in a consumer-friendly way.

            Thus anything that has PCIe compatibility can be supported by the TB controller.

            • mutarasector
            • 9 years ago

            I believe USB 3.0 was specifically stated as _not_ being compatible with TB, supposedly because of USB’s power management scheme, but I could be wrong. Then again, at the time this was stated, no native USB 3.0 chipset implementations existed at that time either. That situation has since changed however.

      • mutarasector
      • 9 years ago

      Originally, it was to steal some of USB 3.0’s ‘thunder’ so Intel had something with which to name Light Peak.

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    I’d bet Apple will include USB3 as soon as Intel gets around to integrating it with their chipsets.

      • dpaus
      • 9 years ago

      Maybe Intel should integrate Flash into their chips too 🙂

        • bthylafh
        • 9 years ago

        It’d be worth it so we could see The Steve bragging about how Macs run Flash faster than anyone else. 😛

          • dpaus
          • 9 years ago

          The doctor brought his iPad to Steve’s bedside so he could see the video of the Developer Forum, but – oops – it required Flash.

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            you’re on a roll today

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 9 years ago

        And Windows. And a hard drive. And a toaster…wait…they already did that one.

      • mutarasector
      • 9 years ago

      Agreed. They would be nuts not to considering it would cost them virtually nothing to do so once they start using Ivy Bridge chipsets in the next Mac line refresh.

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