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Apple is keeping it pricey with a $49 cable for its new Thunderbolt interface.  (Source: Ubergizmo)

  (Source: iFixIt)

Apple's Thunderbolt cable contains over 10 chips  (Source: iFixIt)
But this cable has chips, so it must be worth it!

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is borrowing a play from Monster Cables offering a cable that's almost as pricey as the peripherals it plans to support.  The new Thunderbolt cable will retail for $49 USD.

Plugging in to the Mini Display Port of new MacBook Pros and iMacs, the cable offers support for "Thunderbolt", a new high speed communications standard from Intel Corp. (INTC).  With the first peripheral (a RAID drive bay from Pegasus) launching, attention has turned to this pricey little number.

IFixIt tore the white cable apart and found a pair of Gennum GN2033 chips hiding beneath the sheathing, with one on each connector of the cable.  In total there were also 10 other smaller tiny chips and an assortment of transistors, etc.

Gennum's webpage brags that its chip takes normal cables and offers "sophisticated signal boosting and detection functions required to transfer high-speed data without errors."

Of course nobody seems to know how much these chips cost so it's hard to say exactly how much profit Apple is pulling in off the cables.

Adoption is expected to be slow for the standard.  Like Apple's original Firewire standard, the price of the communications band (in this case the cable) offers a barrier for market entry.  It doesn't help that Hewlett-Packard, Company (HPQ) already abandoned plans for Thunderbolt, or that Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) has released a special version of the tech that relies on a modified USB 3.0 optical port.  

And there's the question of USB 3.0, which has already seen much more broad adoption.  USB 3.0 offers transfer speeds of up to 4 Gbit/s.  While only about half the speed of the current Thunderbolt implementation, that's still pretty blazing fast so the question remains how many customers will actually notice a difference.

To Monster Cables' credit, at least it only charges $29 for its "gold-plated" USB 2.0 cables, which it brags "rejects noise" and works to "maximize signal integrity."  Sound familiar?



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Sounds about right
By longstride on 6/30/2011 12:10:23 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think you understand that this price is pretty much in line with the industry for ACTIVE cables. The purpose of the chips, is that the transceiver is built-in the cable ends, allowing for different transport medium. Right now the transport is copper, but with no changes to the connector they should be able to develop active fiber optic cables, but expect those to cost even more.

Look into the costs of SFP+ optical transceivers, some of them are as high as $500 each and you need TWO of those in addition to the cable!

$50 is about in line with the cost of 10GbE copper SFP+ DAC (direct attach) cabling.




RE: Sounds about right
By dark matter on 6/30/2011 1:35:47 PM , Rating: 2
There is no need to make the cable active. This could be quite easily incorporated into the actual devices.

We are taking consumer and prosumer products here.


RE: Sounds about right
By longstride on 6/30/2011 3:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
If you want the flexibility to have a cable which is copper or fiber without changing the connector then you need an active cable with transceivers for each media type.


RE: Sounds about right
By TakinYourPoints on 7/1/2011 5:49:24 AM , Rating: 2
People also forget that the people who would buy this, specifically AV professionals, are willing to pay more for the kind of performance that this equipment gets you.

BOM is a terrible way to judge value, especially when it comes to high-end low-volume gear aimed at a niche market.


RE: Sounds about right
By TakinYourPoints on 7/1/2011 6:18:05 AM , Rating: 2
I also don't see extortion. Here are copper interconnects for servers that are also 10 Gbps, but unlike Thunderbolt they are not bi-directional, they are only good for transmitting storage data, and they cost $70-$150 instead of $50: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-...


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