"So with this new specification, you can go from very small devices with 5 volts, 2 amps or 10 watts -- where USB starts -- up to 20 volts 5 amps and 100 watts," Ravencraft said. "This power delivery capability is going to extend the ease of use for consumers, reduce clutter in the work and home environment, but also reduce electronic waste filling up landfills with custom chargers."
Consumers toss out millions of battery chargers every year. In fact, cell phone chargers account for almost 100,000 tons of trash annually in the U.S. In the E.U., chargers represent about 51,000 tons of landfill waste.
The need for speed
For Thunderbolt, this is the first speed increase since its initial release in 2011.
Based on copper, the Thunderbolt specification contains two protocols: PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort. The Thunderbolt chip switches between the two protocols to support varying devices. DisplayPort offers HD display support as well as eight channels of HD audio. The current Thunderbolt connector has two full-duplex channels; each are bi-directional and capable of 10Gbps of throughput.
While the upgrade to 20Gbps maintains Thunderbolt's significant edge over USB 3.0 in terms of bandwidth, the USB specification is the de facto industry standard peripheral interconnect. Thunderbolt has been mainly adopted by Apple.
"We have over 865 USB SuperSpeed products today," Ravencraft said. "That's well over double what we had a year ago."
SuperSpeed USB is optimized for power efficiency. It uses only 1.5 amps of power for charging devices, or about one-third of the power of its predecessor Hi-Speed USB (v2.0).
Thunderbolt will get its performance boost from a new controller chip, code-named Falcon Ridge. Intel introduced that chip at the NAB Show earlier this month. The controller chip is slated to go into production by the end of this year.
The new USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps specification is scheduled to be completed in July.
"I think we'll see products in the market by the Christmas season in 2014," Ravencraft said. "The companies have to build silicon - device, host, bridge and hub silicon."
Along with the power improvements, the upgrades to USB and Thunderbolt lend themselves to higher-definition displays, as well as supporting more external drives based on NAND flash technology.