Print 56 comment(s) - last by zBernie.. on Sep 6 at 1:34 PM

A publication claims that USB 3.0 could at last hit Macs.

The addition would allow Apple customers to ditch their $50 premium cables -- and, more importantly, gain access to many more peripherals.  (Source: iFixIt)
Move could alleviate Apple owners' woes of limited peripheral selection

These days USB 3.0, an extra-speedy connectivity technology is supported by an increasing number of peripherals like external hard drives or thumb drives.  And it's become quite mainstream in the PC market, even showing up in mid-range models like the Micro-Star International Comp., Ltd.'s (TPE:2377) $700 MSI FX603 notebook.

But customers of Apple Inc. (AAPL) -- the third largest computer-maker in the U.S. -- are willing to settle for paying as much $3,000 or more for some high end "fully loaded" notebooks or $5,000 on some desktops without a scrap of USB 3.0 support.

Ex-CEO Steve Jobs claimed customers didn't care about USB 3.0 and it wasn't time for them to be allowed to get it, anyways.  Apple instead offers customers Thunderbolt, an early copper-based implementation of Intel Corp.'s (INTC) upcoming fiber-optic "LightPeak" technology.

LightPeak offers 20 Gbit/s bidirectional data transmission versus up to 5 Gbit/s with USB 3.0.  While that sounds like a favorable trade, one relatively minor downside to this arrangement is that Apple customers have to pony up a whopping $50 USD per cable, thanks to the slew of microchips inside the complicated design.  Further, while an extra $50 on a $5000 computer may not seem that bad, the lack of selection in terms of ThunderBolt peripherals offers a far more pressing issue for Apple computer users.

Now with a new CEO at the head of Apple the rumor has popped up yet again that the company will finally catch up to PCs in hardware by offering its customers USB 3.0.  

VR-Zone writes, "A lot of people have been disappointed over Apple's lack of interest in the USB 3.0 standard, but thanks to a little bird, VR-Zone has heard that the company is still looking at USB 3.0 as a potential feature to add on future products. As to when and how this might happen is not something we know, but from our understanding it'll happen before Intel integrates USB 3.0 support into its chipsets."

The important word in that comment is "before".  Intel is supposed to drop in support for the USB 3.0 standard in its Ivy Bridge CPU series, which will launch in 2012.  If VR-Zone's source is correct Apple could be preparing to deliver USB 3.0 slightly ahead of schedule in late 2011.

If Apple does that it'd probably have to go with a third party chip to add compatibility to its stock Intel chipset.  That wouldn't be the first time Apple has done this -- its a well known secret that back in 2010 it hacked at the stock chipsets to allow graphics switching (similar to Optimus) between the integrated GPU in the Intel CPU core and the dedicated onboard NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) GeForce GPU.

Hopefully the rumors are true, after all, from our perspective there's little excuse to be peddling a $5,000 computer that lacks USB 3.0 support found in $700 Windows PCs.

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RE: I still don't get it...
By TakinYourPoints on 9/2/2011 9:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
It is because USB isn't meant to be used that way. Here is the official quote from the USB implimenters forum.

"USB connectors are not general purpose connectors and are not designed to be used in support of other technology applications or standards or as combo connectors."

Note that that the first demonstration of Light Peak was on a Mac Pro using physical USB connectors, not mini-DisplayPort. Intel obviously made the change since there are no license fees involved with mini-DP. Mini-DP was designed and then released by Apple with no royalty fees for licensees. It doesn't have the license restrictions that USB does, and it allows for smaller chassis (always a plus with ever shrinking chassis), so it was an obvious choice.

Sony must have paid a license fee to use the USB connector for Thunderbolt. In any case, it is a bad move because the only TB devices that will work with that notebook are proprietary Sony devices (their dock, etc etc). Without the mini-DP port it will not support Thunderbolt devices which will become more and more available. No surprise as Sony and proprietary go hand-in-hand.

Interesting quote from a review of the Vaio Z

Alongside the Ethernet, HDMI, VGA and USB2 connectors is the Thunderbolt port. Unlike Apple's and Intel's implementation, which takes the form of a Mini DisplayPort-compatible connector, Sony has decided to use a USB3 port. The underlying technology is still the same as Thunderbolt - Intel's Light Peak – but since it doesn't use the Mini DisplayPort connector, it can't be branded as Thunderbolt. Perversely, squeezing Light Peak into a USB3 connector is against the rules set by the USB Implementers Forum, so it can't be branded as USB3 either.

In any case, the lack of TB peripherals will quickly go away. People forget that there is always a similar lack of device support whenever a new connector comes out.

RE: I still don't get it...
By quiksilvr on 9/2/2011 11:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
But WHY? WHY can't it be used as a combo connector? eSATA and USB 2.0, microUSB and miniHDMI, and now USB 3.0 and Light Peak. People don't seem to really care and/or the licensing fee is negligibly low. HDMI has licensing fees but that didn't stop it from spreading like wild-fire.

By TakinYourPoints on 9/3/2011 3:19:20 AM , Rating: 2
The point is that the USB implimenter's forum does not approve of USB being used in this way, so much so that they won't allow Sony to brand a USB 3.0 capable port as such because it also carries Thunderbolt.

I don't know what Sony did here, did they license it or did they just disregard the restrictions and go ahead with it anyway?

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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