Apple's confirmation of Thunderbolt on the newly refreshed MacBook Pro range this morning could lend weight to speculation earlier that the new iPad 2 will have a Light Peak connection of its own. Examination of the various batches of leaked iPad 2 cases had led to suggestions that the mysterious opening on the top edge could be for a smaller-than-USB connector; that would certainly fit in with the Mini DisplayPort connection Thunderbolt has been confirmed to use.
The adoption of the Light Peak based connection standard would also allow Apple to broaden its peripheral options with the iPad, since Thunderbolt supports gigabit ethernet, DisplayPort/HDMI/DVI/VGA video outputs, storage and more. Of course, Apple would have to add in software support for that in iOS.
The faster data bus - up to 10 Gbps bi-directionally - might also speed up iTunes synchronization, though that's not just a factor of the pipe between the iPad and the Mac or PC it's linked up to. Still, if Apple is pushing Thunderbolt adoption as a way to leave behind the bulky array of FireWire, USB, network and other ports on future MacBook Pro models, shifting its iOS portable devices to the new connector might have more value than simple speed. We'll find out for sure at the Apple event next Wednesday, March 2nd.