Intel has admitted that fiber optic versions of its Thunderbolt high-speed connectivity standard could still take years to arrive, leaving existing copper implementations the standard for some time to come. Intel Architecture Group general manager Dadi Perlmutter told PC World that it was a combination of pricing and current speeds being sufficient, suggesting that “at the end of the day it’s all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay.”
Thunderbolt still carries a premium as it is, even “limited” to 10Gbps. The new port technology – which is compatible with DisplayPort, and so can be used to carry both data and display – is now available across Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air ranges, while we’ve learned this week that Windows 8 will natively support it as well. However, Windows machines with the connectivity are likely to be more expensive than those using USB 3.0 and other technologies.
Meanwhile, copper connectivity won’t stand still while fiber prices decline, Perlmutter suggests. “Copper will continue to improve, which happens” he points out. “There have been many technologies that had been predicted dead 20 years ago that are still making good progress. We’ll see.” Nonetheless, fiber will bring with it longer ranges, and open the door to Intel’s latest connectivity research which tips data rates of around 50Gbps.
ASUS and Acer have already thrown their hats into the Thunderbolt ring, and said they will be shipping machines with the port in 2012. Sony, meanwhile, already has a custom implementation of the original Light Peak technology in a high-end VAIO, which can be paired with an external dock offering boosted graphics and an optical burner.