The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


Apple shouldn’t have an exclusive on Thunderbolt

The new Intel/Apple connection dubbed Thunderbolt sounds really cool. You can connect monitors, storage devices and who knows what else plus it's compatible with older technologies like Firewire. Much to like. But it's much less great that Intel is giving Apple a one-year exclusive deal (or just a giant "headstart" according to another pub) on Thunderbolt. It may be good for Apple but it's bad for customers.

The exclusivity means a much smaller base of potential customers for any Thunderbolt peripherals, which, in turn, means higher prices, smaller selection and slower arrival of cool new stuff to connect to your new Thunderbolt port.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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  1. Well it doesn’t take much to work out. Apple took the original idea to Intel and asked them to develop it and probably funded it as well. In exchange, Apple agreed to use it once available, allowing Intel to get an early return on the development costs and Apple to get early adopter advantage for a year.
    The slew of cool new stuff is yet to arrive, apart from the odd hard disk so the early advantage is mute. Other computer OEMs will need at least 6 months to do some engineering work themselves and optimisation. Or they may adopt a wait-and-see approach and do nothing whilst pinning their hopes on usb3 which tops out at half the speed of Tb and has a cash per implementation advantage.
    Projected max speed for this version of Tb is 100Gbit per sec by 2015 so effectively usb’s theoretical limit – which will likely never be realised, is dead in the water for serious heavy lifting.

  2. Ok lets get some facts straight here, USB was an Intel design that the PC industry did not effectively adopt until Apple make it the exclusive serial communications in the iMac.
    Firewire was the absolute standard for fast video for many years, but lost out as USB offered almost the same capabilities at much lower cost, and firewire’s slow death was at Apple hands.
    Thunderbolt is all about low latency even more so than bandwidth (GB Ethernet will be the big data pipe and Thunderbolt will be the system bus extension in the future) both Intel and Apple (and Dell and HP) want to get to the point where they only need two ports for lots of i/o).
    The list of audio and video Thunderbolt supports is big and very significant. The pro Audio Video I/O apps will drive the early adoption of thunderbolt and this is a market dominated by Apple. Intel needs the creative community looking for low latency I/O to adopt this so it can then be pushed into the consumer space. Apple needs this as laptops become the dominate product and powerful enough to do real higher end audio / video apps but until now could not support low latency I/O.

  3. Intel debuts a new I/O tech on a platform growing at 17-18%, in a world where waiting for MSFT and Windows isn’t that smart. Users should also gain from the market traction for one connector type (DisplayPort/Thunderbolt).

  4. Apple paid for part of the dev costs, so they get a say in how it is deployed. I’m fine with it. The usual suspects will still release the usual half-baked products and charge too much for them, volume manufacturers need time to engineer proper Tb interface electronics.

    It is interesting that they took this approach in the face of USB 3.

    I think it interesting that Apple has a phenomenally fast large storage interconnect technology, but doesn’t sell servers. What is up with that?

  5. Apple and Intel are going to sell you something that’s been out for a year with a different connector piece and very very minimal changes for 3 times the price… Yep, I see it now, 90% of that 17% growth is going to spend extra cash to transfer songs in 10 seconds istead of 14.


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