Although it debuted on the MacBook Pro in 2011, Thunderbolt – the wicked-fast data transmission technology – still seems like a “new” feature, possibly because it is entering the Macintosh product line gradually (the Mac Pro does not yet have it). Industry rumor-meisters assert that Intel, which developed Thunderbolt with Apple, is releasing a new “Ivy Bridge” processor in April that supports both Thunderbolt and its high-speed transfer competition, USB 3.
Thunderbolt’s growth rate should accelerate dramatically as the technology moves to the Windows side of the market and starts appearing on computer rentals (and everything else). At 5Mbps, USB 3 is 10 times faster than USB 2, but Thunderbolt is twice as fast as that at 10Mbps. Thunderbolt also supports “daisy chain” connections (every Thunderbolt device has an in and out port) so computers need only one port to support up to seven devices.
Gradual acceptance of Thunderbolt interface
At first, Thunderbolt technology almost struck out. The two immediate strikes against it were chips cost about $20-25, and it was competing with USB 3. Thunderbolt did not get much attention from the IT crowd right away, but as Apple incorporated it into its monitors, MacBook Pro, iMac and MacBook Air, demand surged. The cost for adding Thunderbolt will drop throughout 2012, enabling standardization across computing platforms.
Some folks saw the future back in September 2011, when Asus and Acer committed to Thunderbolt-compatible PCs and peripherals for 2012 in an attempt to position themselves as front-runners. Intel has already announced the “full release” of Thunderbolt specifications in April, so these firms and other top-tier PC makers have Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards and desktops in the pipeline. And it won’t be long before you can rent laptops from CRE with it, too.
Watch the floodgates!
If you want to standardize a technology for computers – desktops, laptops, tablet PC rentals, all kinds – it needs to be on PCs, not just Macs. (You never saw AppleTalk on any Dell products.) As Intel’s development partner, Apple was initially the sole vendor with Thunderbolt technology, but as demand grew Intel released it for wider use. Speaking of “wider use,” Apple apparently has plans to include Thunderbolt on iOS devices, too, and with more and more PC makers getting on board, Thunderbolt’s prospects are bright.
Sony is integrating Thunderbolt technology into its product lines, too, while Asustek Computer and others are expected to add it, as well. Gigabyte Technology has been aggressive about all new transmission technologies, and is set to launch Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards in April to compete against Asustek, ASRock and other board makers. Your chances of being hit by lightning are still as low as ever, but you’ll probably run into a Thunderbolt, and soon!