In January, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced a version of the USB standard with twice the data rate of USB 3.0. Earlier this morning, the organization revealed that the specification for the new standard has been completed.
Officially dubbed USB 3.1 (called it!), the latest standard doubles the peak transfer rate to a cool 10Gbps. Also, in keeping with USB's long and illustrious tradition, it retains backward compatibility with previous versions of the standard. Here's the spiel from the press release:
SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps uses a more efficient data encoding and will deliver more than twice the effective data through-put [sic] performance of existing SuperSpeed USB over enhanced, fully backward compatible USB connectors and cables. Compatibility is assured with existing USB 3.0 software stacks and device class protocols as well as with existing 5 Gbps hubs and devices and USB 2.0 products.
At 10Gbps, USB 3.1's peak transfer rate will be comparable to that of Thunderbolt—the current version of Thunderbolt, anyway. Intel unveiled the even faster Thunderbolt 2 in April, announced its official name in June, and expects the first Thunderbolt 2 products to be out by the end of the year.
The USB 3.0 Promoter Group's announcement doesn't say anything about when the first USB 3.1 products will turn up. For the record, though, the USB 3.0 spec was finalized in November 2008, and we got our hands on some of the first USB 3.0 hardware about a year later.