VESA adding USB 3.0, power deliver to DisplayPort spec

Power delivery and USB 3.0 connectivity are coming to DisplayPort. The VESA standards body is adding both features as an extension to the DisplayPort spec.

According to the official press release, the DockPort extension is expected in the second quarter of this year. However, it's possible that timeline pertains just to the USB portion. Craig Wiley, the chairman of the VESA board, is quoted as saying "the new DockPort extension will utilize the flexibility of DisplayPort technology to create a single display, data, and, in the near future, power connector, while still being backward compatible with all other DisplayPort devices." The extension's "enhanced power capabilities" are still "under development," and they'll likely include the ability to charge the host system in addition to powering peripherals.

Whenever the final specification takes shape, DockPort should be relatively inexpensive to implement. The DisplayPort standard is royalty-free, and so is the upcoming DockPort extension. DockPort is also designed for passive cables that are cheaper than the active ones required by Intel's competing Thunderbolt interconnect.

The DockPort extension is based on a controller chip that Texas Instruments released this summer. AMD also played a role in DockPort's development. In 2012, we saw AMD demo the technology under the Lightning Bolt code name. At the time, the company told us the implementation cost for hardware makers would be below $10—substantially less than the price of a Thunderbolt chip.

These days, AMD is showing off DockPort in its Discovery tablet reference design. The DockPort name also appears in a press release announcing the 2013 mobile APU lineup, though without any mention of USB 3.0 or power. It's unclear whether any of AMD's existing products support DockPort as it's being implemented in the DisplayPort spec.

As a high-speed interconnect, Thunderbolt is more impressive than DockPort. PCI Express trumps USB 3.0. However, USB connectivity is probably more useful for typical consumers, and power delivery has interesting potential for mobile device charging. If DockPort can be implemented cheaply, it could catch on with device makers.

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