10Gbps ‘Superspeed USB’ to threaten Thunderbolt?

“Our concern that widespread adoption of USB 3 might leave Thunderbolt out in the cold now looks even more likely as the USB 3.1 – aka Superspeed USB – specification has been announced,” Ben Lovejoy writes for 9to5Mac. “This allows USB transfers of up to 10Gbps, the same speed as the original Thunderbolt standard.”

“Thunderbolt is technically superior to USB 3 – combining PCIe, DisplayPort and power signals into a single cable – and the recently announced Thunderbolt 2 version (which will debut in the new Mac Pro) doubles throughput to a blistering 20Gbps,” Lovejoy writes. “And Thunderbolt can deliver that bandwidth to more than one device at a time.”

Lovejoy writes, “But technical superiority alone is no guarantee of success, as the history of Betamax or Firewire demonstrates.”

Read more in the full article here.


          1. No backward compatibility as in no one has Thunderbolt peripherals or cables. So no one has anything to plug into their Thunderbolt port. Everyone has USB, which is why it will succeed and Thunderbolt will hang around on Macs like Firewire, but will never really gain traction.

  1. I had many lovely years using Firewire instead & pokey USB. Now I use Firewire, USB 3, & Thunderbolt happily. Heck if some new flavor of USB pops up, I’ll use that also. Why do these guys think it’s all or none? Comparing Firewire to Betamax is just wrong.

    1. Because the more outrageous or stupid the claim, the more clicks they harvest to show advertisers. Just like the news, it’s now about collecting profit, not delivering information.
      V.I. Warshawski: “Follow the money.”

  2. THe big issue with Thunderbolt is the accessory and maybe even the cable cost. Unless this drops, I can see USB3.1 getting a solid foothold in no time if the adoption into devices is quick and the prices do not rise significantly and cables are not over priced.

    1. Agreed. Thunderbolt will never replace USB. It needs controller chips even in the cables so it will never be as cheap. And it will never be so cheap that you would want to also use it for keyboard and mouse cables, scanner and printer cables, and other accessories that don’t need such throughput. I’d love to see Lightning replace all accessory cabling, but that won’t happen either for the same reasons.

      USB already has the solid foothold. USB 3.1 will only fail if it is difficult to implement in future accessories, or if consumer confusion over the multiple USB standards interferes.

  3. Apple & Intel must be betting that video bandwidth demand for just the average computer user will require Thunderbolt.

    Given that the home video/TV watching market is huge and available for computer control, I suspect Apple & Intel have it right, but can’t prove it.

    Wintel people kept shipping parallel and serial ports on all laptops and beige boxes until half a decade ago, and I suspect that will be true this time before they move to using Thunderbolt.

    1. USB is not for video — unless you’re talking about low to medium resolutions and frame rates. The CPU overhead of USB is just to high to support video at moderately high to high resolutions and frame rates.

      Thunderbolt 2.0 just barely supports bandwidths required for the extended color ranges and higher pixel counts and frame rates of UHDTV (even at just 60 Hz). USB 3.1 does not have a prayer in this segment — and this segment is the future. (Near future? Probably not. But it IS the future.)

      USB 3.1 is about a replacement for SATA — if that. The 12 Gbps and higher SATA standards are still a pipe dream. The 10 Gbps USB variant can compete directly with 6 Gbps SATA even when its CPU overhead requirements are taken into account. Thus eSATA is in trouble unless the 12 Gbps and higher variants get out the door very soon.

      This is not to say that this is not really a political move. TB came out with 10 Gbps channels. USB almost caught up with 5 Gbps. TB announces 20 Gbps. Not to be left in the dust, USB announces 10 Gbps keeping the ratio the same. If USB had stayed at 5 Gbps for another year or so, organizations that might not otherwise consider TB would start to do so. This 10 Gbps announcement by USB is just a defensive maneuver.

      I was disappointed when Intel announced Thunderbolt 2.0 and it was JUST the two 10 Gbps channels bonded together. You could already do that. It’s now just part of the standard and you don’t have to do extra work to get there. (In all honesty there were two variants of the chipsets for TB 1.0: single and dual channel. TB 2.0 will only be dual channel.)

      What Intel *should* have done was double the data rate AND put bonding as part of the standard. Then TB 2.0 would have had a theoretical peak of 40 Gbps. This would support either multiple UHDTV, or true 4K, monitors with a single cable with the displays daisy chained. You could even support the true 8K Digital Cinema Standard systems at the cinematic frame rate of 24 frames per second with a single cable.

      But no, Intel decided to do a “half step” and call it a “Full Step”. What they are calling TB 2.0 should really have been called TB 1.5. But I can still dream that we’ll see a *true* 50 Gbps TB 3.0 before 2016.

  4. The failure of Thunderbolt to gain traction due to stupid cost of cables, connectors, drives, and adaptors is just another example of Apple’s now well established lack of leadership. Steve declared Firewire as obsolete, DVD’s as unnecessary, and the whole desktop industry as a “truck” and everybody just accepted it. Tim talks about Thunderbolt being part of mythical “great products” in the pipeline and nobody believes him because he has proven himself to be unbelievable – aka, lying.

    1. Dont know about lying but certainly not inspiring. SJ was inspiring despite telling us that Firewire was the future before he told us it was dead. Cook simply cant get away with the lies that SJ did, or indeed even little ones it seems.

      1. Firewire WAS the future back in 1990 when it was first announced. Apple’s implementation of one the most onerous licensing schemes ever conceived all but killed it and almost guaranteed that it would never become ubiquitous.

        Most people don’t know that 3.2 Gbps Firewire was an accepted part of the standard over 10 years ago. The problem was that no one — not even Apple — implemented it outside the lab. Can you imagine what would have happened if Apple had pushed 3.2 Gbps Firewire with a very reasonable licensing scheme when USB was still at 480 Mbps? Firewire might actually have caught on!

  5. I can safely predict that either USB 3.1 will supersede Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt will supersede USB 3.1 or they will coexist in temporary relative harmony.

    I will be happy to cover bets from anyone who disagrees. 😆

    1. Funny thing though intel owns both usb and thunderbolt.
      I use thunderbolt daily and there is no comparison you can make, that makes usb better. Thunderbolt is hands down faster and supports more. (think video, pci and a host of other things).

  6. FireWire didn’t lose to USB.

    Apple introduced USB first, and then FireWire. USB was used for keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, and such and then eventually hard drives.

    FireWire was used for hard drives and optical drives along with USB, but was the preferred connection, especially prior to USB 2.0.

    However, the real distinguishing feature of FireWire which was relevant for about a decade was the use for video I/O. All digital tape cameras featured FireWire, and most still do.

    If you were involved in digital video between 1999 and about 2009, FireWire was a must have. In many situations it still is.

    It really wasn’t until non-tape based digital video came out that USB even became a possible, though still not ideal choice. Most live video streams today go still go through FireWire, though HDMI/Thunderbolt is being increasingly used.

    TL;DR: FireWire was a success. It served its time and was used where USB wasn’t even an option for over 10 years.

  7. Still using FW800 every day. Not ubiquitous? Who cares?

    And BTW, I suspect that those who complain most loudly about the price of TB cables never had to purchase SCSI cables! 😉

  8. Concept: How about Intel finally finishes the entire Light Peak standard!

    IOW: Fiber optic data transmission with copper carrying an electric charge.

    Thunderbolt is merely a copper compromise step along the way to what was the original goal: Actual Light Peak technology. Wake up Intel! Finish the project!

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