February 23, 2011, 5:38 PM — Intel plans to release the first versions of a high-speed way to connect peripheral devices that should replace USBs completely as soon as manufacturers in China can figure out how to squeeze it into novelty hubs shaped like misbehaving dogs.
Actually the optical, ultra-high-speed data-transfer interface called Light Peak that Intel announced in 2009 is designed more as an alternative connection to hard drives, storage networks and other bandwidth-intensive applications than as a swap-out for USB.
It wasn't even clear if it was going to ship using copper or fiberoptic connections until an Intel exec admitted to Computerworld in January that copper is cheaper and easier to integrate with existing hardware.
Even on copper, Light Peak is designed to run at 10 Gbit/sec – eight to 10 times faster than ATA or SATA hard-drive connectors, let alone Firewire's comparatively pokey top speed of 800 Mbit/sec or USB's negligible 12Mbit/set.
At 10Gbit/sec, in fact, Light Peak is at least 10 times faster than the Ethernet connections that bring data in to most computers, making Light Peak something of a rare, easily ignored treat.
A lot of things seemed easy to ignore until Apple built them into its hardware, though – Firewire, USB, flat screen monitors, colors other than tan or black.
This time Light Peak may be the bonus tech, rumored to be announced as part of a large-scale refresh of Apple's MacBook Pro line of high-end laptops being announced Thursday in San Francisco.
Mac-digging mole MacRumor published a photo reputed to be from the box of a new 13-inch MacBook Pro that lists Light Peak under the name Thunderbolt.
It also posted more photos of Light Peak, including a plug that looks amazingly like a full-sized USB-A, and a contribution from the French MacGeneration (via whatever is French for "trusted source") listing the following specs for the new MacBook Pros: