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Reports: Intel’s Light Peak I/O will debut on Apple laptops

Feb 23, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Intel is apparently about to launch its “Light Peak” interconnect, offering 10Gb/sec. data transfer and the ability to connect multiple peripherals to a single cable. The technology will be announced tomorrow on MacBook Pro notebooks from Apple, where it will be branded “Thunderbolt,” according to multiple reports.

Several websites report receiving a statement from Intel, according to which the chipmaker will "host a … [Feb. 24] press briefing to discuss a new technology that is about to appear on the market." Technology and product demonstrations will be held later the same day on Intel's Santa Clara, Calif. campus, adds CNet writer Brooke Crothers.

In a related development, the Fscklog and MacRumors websites published — first in German and then in English — specs for a 13-inch MacBook Pro portable that's also expected to make a Feb. 24 debut. The device will reportedly feature a 2.3GHz Core i5 ("Sandy Bridge") processor, Intel HD 3000 graphics, and a new "Thunderbolt" port (below) that supports Mini DisplayPort displays and also provides high-speed I/O.

This purported image of the 13-inch MacBook Pro's ports shows the Thunderbolt interface
Source: MacRumors

The advertised capabilities for Thunderbolt and even its apparent launch date jibe with information that has previously been provided by Intel. The chipmaker says on its Light Peak product page that the technology will provide transfer rates starting at 10Gb/sec., sufficient to allow transfer of a full-length Blu-Ray movie in less then 30 seconds. Also featured will be a controller that allows a single cable to connect displays, docking stations, and other devices.

Intel initially showed Light Peak at a 2009 technology conference — where Apple's OS X operating system was used for demonstrations — and said the technology would become available in PCs during 2011. The interconnect will eventually scale up to 100Gb/sec. and move to optical cables, but the first implementations will be copper, as noted by CNet's Brooke Crothers.

Precisely how Apple plans to utilize Light Peak won't be known until the new MacBook Pro's launch, but we're guessing that the new Thunderbolt port will allow direct connection of a DisplayPort monitor using a standard cable. If users want to use the high-speed interface for other purposes, they'll presumably need to order appropriate Y-adapters or breakout boxes.

According to Intel, Light Peak will include a controller chip that provides protocol switching capabilities. Therefore, it appears, an relevant Thunderbolt adapter could allow the new MacBook Pro to provide USB 3.0 connectivity. The latter capability would explain why Apple has bypassed USB 3.0 so far, and why Intel didn't add support for it in its 2011 Sandy Bridge chipsets.

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