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AMD and NVIDIA say Intel won't share its USB 3.0 open host controller specs

The USB 3.0 specification is expected to be out in 2009 and will significantly upgrade the bandwidth of the current USB 2.0 ports and products that all computer users are familiar with. The body responsible for the support and promotion of the USB specifications going back to USB 1.1 is the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).

The USB-IF was founded by Intel in 1995 along with other industry players including Microsoft, HP, Texas Instruments, NEC and NXP Semiconductors. Currently, the USB-IF and its members are working to bring the USB 3.0 specification to market. USB 3.0 is also being called “PCI Express over cable” because the USB 3.0 specification uses intellectual property that was sourced from the PCI SIG. USB 3.0 will increase the bandwidth offered by USB 2.0 by 10 times with a data throughput of about 5 gigabits per second.

Despite the fact that much of the intellectual property behind the USB 3.0 specification wasn’t developed by Intel, AMD and NVIDIA both assert that Intel is keeping crucial information concerning the open host controller to itself. According to NVIDIA and AMD, Intel has working silicon, meaning the open host controller portion is mature and working, yet Intel is refusing to give the specifications to other processor and chipset makers.

AMD and NVIDIA say that by withholding the open host controller specifications that Intel is basically giving itself a market advantage of six to nine months because of the time lag between receiving the host controller specifications by other CPU and chipset makers and getting product to the marketplace.

An Intel source told News.com, “Intel only gives it [open host controller specifications] out once it's finished. And it's not finished. If it was mature enough to release, it would be released. If you have an incomplete spec and give it out to people, these people will build their chipsets and you'll end up with chipsets that are incompatible with devices. That's what (Intel) is trying to avoid."

The Intel source continued saying, “[Intel is] a little bit behind and that's what might be causing some of the resentment. You could take the opinion that Intel is giving stuff out for free and people are complaining because (Intel) isn't giving it out fast enough.”

If Intel feels that AMD and NVIDIA aren’t willing to do the hard work of developing the open host controller for USB 3.0 themselves, it may be very mistaken. AMD and NVIDIA say they are going to develop their own open host controller for USB 3.0. Both firms point out that developing a separate open host controller could very well mean incompatibilities between USB 3.0 controllers and products.

An AMD source told News.com, “We are starting development on it [open host controller] right now.” An NVIDIA source says the first meeting of the alternate open host controller specification is set for next week and adds, "We fully intend to productize this spec.”

Intel maintains that it is not withholding the specification and that it will provide the details for the open host controller when it is complete.

Intel is in hot water already for some of its business practices. The FTC announced last week that it will investigate whether Intel has abused its market position to stifle competition.



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By FITCamaro on 6/9/2008 1:19:12 PM , Rating: 3
Many new PCs still don't have eSATA though. And you can only connect one drive to it. With USB, you could get a 3.0 hub and connect many drives. Just like people do with 2.0 today.


By larson0699 on 6/9/2008 3:26:28 PM , Rating: 2
You're right in that it is much more economical to opt for the USB hub and array the drives from there. I do hope that the efficiency in those ATA/USB adapters improves in the USB 3.0 era, but for my own applications I'd rely on as few adapters as possible. Thus eSATA is more to my liking. (If only it supplied power to smaller drives like USB did...)

Similarly, you could assemble a small external workstation (much in the context of NAS, just without Ethernet) with multiple drives in RAID, channeled through the single eSATA to the host. Of course we have the disadvantage of a single link's bandwidth (as well as the additional SATA controller), but also a ton of space consolidated into one reliable native ATA volume. I would give that my vote for externally-streamed media / mass storage over USB anyday, even if USB 3.0 and the conversion therein surpasses it in raw numbers.

Unless of course there were ever a native USB hard drive.

Until then, I'll leave USB to my input devices, printers/MFD's, and flash drives.


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