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Networking Intel Apple Technology

Apple Behind Intel's USB Competitor? 332

We recently discussed Light Peak, Intel's upcoming, optical interconnect technology that boasts data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps. While some have speculated that Light Peak will directly compete with USB 3.0, Engadget has now unearthed information that indicates the idea for the technology originated from Apple, who apparently asked Intel to develop it. "According to documents we've seen and conversations we've had, Apple had reached out to Intel as early as 2007 with plans for an interoperable standard which could handle massive amounts of data and 'replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector (FireWire, USB, Display interface).' ... Based on what we've learned, Apple will introduce the new standard for its systems around Fall 2010 in a line of Macs destined for back-to-school shoppers — a follow-up to the 'Spotlight turns to notebooks' event, perhaps. Following the initial launch, there are plans to roll out a low-power variation in 2011, which could lead to more widespread adoption in handhelds and cellphones. The plans from October 2007 show a roadmap that includes Light Peak being introduced to the iPhone / iPod platform to serve as a gateway for multimedia and networking outputs."
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Apple Behind Intel's USB Competitor?

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  • Replace? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Throtex ( 708974 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:59AM (#29556363)

    "replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector" = multitudinous connector types + 1;

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:07AM (#29556447)

    Why apple wouldn't choose to use 10 Gigabit Ethernet instead? Is this some sort of NIH and vendor lock in mania from Steve once again? "Consumer adaptation" (cheaply fabricable lasers, home use friendly connectors) might be sort of necessary, but I can't see what's the part that specially mandates reinventing a wheel when the rest of the industry is betting on development of Ethernet to higher and higher speeds, on many kinds of media.

    BTW, what I'm really waiting for is replacement of display cables by 10GE/Ethernet framing/IP. I guess I have to wait until component prices drop to range of ten euros per device, but anyway... I really can't understand why there isn't more push to that direction. If Apple expects to install something that can't be so different from 10GE on devices in couple years...

  • Re:Put it on iPods (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:13AM (#29556505)

    The iPod already uses a special connector. You could just make an integrated cable with power and an optical data link, the same way USB and Firewire now use a cable with data and power links.

    Actually, they'd be nuts not to just spec the cable to have power anyway. It's not going to be nearly as popular if suddenly everyone has to start carrying around wall warts for their external drives.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:18AM (#29556563)


    Transferring a 100 MB app to my iPhone takes a noticeable amount of time, for example. A movie is worse. And things will get MUCH worse in the future, when we have higher resolution portable devices.

    And what Apple wants to do with this interconnect is to replace things like DVI/Display Port, Firewire/USB, (e)SATA, etc., all on one bus.

  • Re:Replace? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:28AM (#29556659)

    "replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector" = multitudinous connector types + 1;

    Except this isn't just trying to be USB 4.0, it's ambitious enough to replace high bandwidth interfaces like DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort. (Maybe Ethernet, too, but I think that'd be a bit too much of an uphill slog to pull off.)

    Now, whether or not that actually happens is an open question, but can you imagine how cool it'd be to have a bunch of identical ports on your laptop, which you're free to plug your monitor, mouse, or video camera into?

  • by dintlu ( 1171159 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:29AM (#29556663)

    I think the idea is to have a homogeneous connective form factor for all data connections on the computer, so that all cables are interchangeable. As far as I know, the bandwidth of an optical transmission isn't limited by the transmitting medium itself, but by the interpretative hardware on either end, which is improving as defined by Moore's law. So you set a standard for the cable and connector now and create interchangeable cables that are not device-specific, which results in all changes to the technology occuring completely on the backend, out of sight to the user.

    If this is, indeed, the goal of LightPeak, i *really* hope that they learned a lesson from USB, and make a connector that can be plugged in using tactile feedback, rather than requiring the user guess-and-rotate as is the case today.

  • by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:33AM (#29556707)

    You don't have to buy a $40 HDMI cable. If the cables you buy are that expensive, then you're just getting fleeced. Do the barest amount of research before you purchase.

    Also, the cheap HDMI cables are more expensive than "ethernet patch cables" because of licensing, a more expensive connector, more wires, and more stringent requirements on the quality of materials. The cable costs more than a dollar because it's the equivalent of several CAT-6a cables. It's designed to transmit raw video data at 1920x1080p30. That's roughly 1.4Gbps. The standard even defines faster rates. You'd need 2-3 CAT6a cables to transfer video at that rate and still cover everything else HDMI takes care of.

  • MagSafe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dara ( 119068 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:36AM (#29556747)

    Even with the criticisms (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MagSafe [wikipedia.org]), one thing I've been impressed with Apple on (and there aren't that many) is the MagSafe connector. I've had way too many problems with other connectors wearing out and not working, and occasionally, the the yanking unintentionally almost causing havoc problem.

    I'd love to see the next generation data connections (with power transfer) be magnetic. To solve the short problem, the power transfer could be inductive, and the optical connection isn't going to short. I'd be happy to have every single damn cable I ever have to use in the future be some variation of MagSafe.


  • firewire (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:42AM (#29556799)

    So... What we're trying to imply here is that this is another Firewire: pretty good (arguably better) but inevitably unable to compete with the ubiquitous USB?

  • by dhovis ( 303725 ) * on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:42AM (#29556809)

    And what Apple wants to do with this interconnect is to replace things like DVI/Display Port, Firewire/USB, (e)SATA, etc., all on one bus.

    I think this is probably what Apple is after. As I look at my Macbook Pro, I have the following connectors: MagSave (power), Ethernet, FW800, miniDP, USBx2, SD card, line-in, and headphones. You could probably get rid of Ethernet, FW, miniDP, and USB and replace them with Light Peak. Since I'm rarely using more than two of those at a time, you could probably reduce the number of ports and start shrinking devices.

    The other thing that Apple seems to be targeting is the optical drive. I think you're going to see Apple dropping optical altogether, and moving OS delivery to SD cards. Most other software/media will be downloads.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:51AM (#29556891)

    That depends on the application. You get complete galvanic separation, thinner cables and no dodgy contacts (no corrosion). The downside is the somewhat low efficiency (though low voltages over thin copper wires aren't exactly shining in that respect either), low maximum power and rather complicated transducers.

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:56AM (#29556935) Homepage Journal

    such as the long settling time when a new device is plugged in,

    That seems to be a Windows-only issue. Both OS X and Linux enumerate USB devices almost immediately.

    and the loss of continuity when a device is unplugged and quickly plugged back in.

    IMHO this is a feature, not a defect; if a device freezes, unplugging it and plugging it back in will often clear up problems.

    Another pet issue is that there should be a means to address a device specifically by which port it is plugged into, as well as by the device's unique ID regardless of which port it is plugged in to.

    This used to be a major problem on Windows - i.e., in the early days of USB (be it XP, Win2K, or WinMe or 98SE) plugging a device (such as a printer) into a different port would force it to be redetected, search for and install a driver, etc. then you'd end up with multiple devices installed. It was downright brain-dead in how it handled USB, whereas on Mac OS and OS X It Just Worked(TM), and when Linux gained USB functionality, there It Just Worked(TM).

    I'd rather the device be addressed by the device's unique identifier, not by port. Which port a USB device is plugged into should be transparent.

  • by putaro ( 235078 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:09PM (#29557057) Journal

    We'll have to see if Apple has learned anything. I first heard about FireWire in maybe 1993. I went to work at Apple in 1995 and met with the people developing FireWire and there was lots of talk about having devices natively support it, yada yada. It didn't make it into shipping Apple hardware until 1999. Besides being late to market, Apple insisted on charging licensing fees to everyone who incorporated FireWire.

    Had FireWire been out in 1996, they might have been able to get away with the licensing fees. Had they forgone the licensing fees in 1999 they might have kept USB a low-speed interconnect.

    In order to succeed in today's market it will need to offer technical advantages over USB 3.0 and not come with a price premium. Having Intel introduce is a pretty strong first step. We'll have to see how the rest of it plays out.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:50PM (#29557429)

    You do realise that the *point* of this is that there is one cable, one connector, and one standard. You can plug anything into anything, and it works. Adding a second cable standard would completely defeat the point. Why by the way might you have "mettalic connection needs" btw?

  • Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThrowAwaySociety ( 1351793 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @01:45PM (#29557895)

    "replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector" = multitudinous connector types + 1;

    This is Apple talking. Since when has Apple bothered with legacy connector support?

  • by Xtravar ( 725372 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @02:21PM (#29558193) Homepage Journal

    So now users can call tech support with their mouse plugged into their monitor and say that their "computer doesn't work".

    I don't understand the fixation on making a completely universal plug. It seems good in theory, but what does it actually get us beyond some cable interchanging possibilities and expensive upgrades?

    Why aren't we working on better wireless communication so that we don't need wires at all? I can't get my wireless mouse 2 feet away from the receiver, and I sure as hell don't want another cable cluttering things up.

  • Re:Replace? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @02:28PM (#29558265)

    This blog post [thomassnielsen.com] says that a hub for other connectors might be the first killer device. Think of it as an inexpensive docking station compatible with all your new computers. It might be the first step towards a single connector.

  • Re:Replace? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ascendant ( 1116807 ) <ascendant512+slashdot@gmail.com> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @03:03PM (#29558559) Homepage Journal

    Except that no, you're wrong.

    Why have you so quickly forgotten USB?

    Mice: used to be serial or ps/2; now: USB.
    Keyboards: serial, ps/2, AT; now: USB.
    External CD drives: used to be SCSI or whatever; now: USB.
    External HDDs, the same, even if some enthusiasts also use eSATA.

    And I'll bet you have nothing at all to say about the hundreds of other little thing that use USB. Phones, flash drives, webcams, tv tuners, wifi, ethernet, bluetooth, and SO MANY MORE things I can't even remember much less have seen before.

    USB promised to "replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector" and succeeded.

  • Replacements (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @03:19PM (#29558675)

    A lot of cheap monitors still use VGA cables and PS/2 is still somewhat common.

    I have doubts about PS/2 being common at all. But even if the devices still were, there are PS/2 to USB adaptors...

    Just like there are DVI to VGA adaptors too. But both of those would be replaced by this connector type.

    There's also ethernet, though that's not in any way new.

    Also can be currently done over USB, and this new connector.

    In addition, external drives are starting to use eSATA, and don't forget there's about 5 different kinds of USB cables.

    The multiple types of cables are something the new standard hopefully would do away with, if the connector is small enough (the fact there are that many USB connector types is a crime against humanity).

    eSata would also be replaced by this connector (I use eSata today myself). In fact I could see them keeping some legacy ports around because they are so common (USB being a big one) but the eSata connector could easily go away and be replaced by a Light Peak adaptor (or just have Light Peak external cases which would be potentially faster).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @03:21PM (#29558685)

    Each generation of faster copper connectors requires new electrical standards i.e. new cables. An optical connector, if properly specified, could provide a future proof connector standard, where the 100Gbps version and beyond use the same physical cable. By moving to a single cable that will be good for a decade or more, Apple and Intel are trying to nuke the connector-cable industry whose insane margins piss them off.

  • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:31PM (#29559275)

    Because we can't power anything through wireless, at least not in any practical or inexpensive fashion. So we either need batteries and battery replacements or a power connector, which kind defeats the purpose. Unless of course we can power them using alternative means ("solar" power panels, key clicking/mouse moving). Powering an antenna (array) requires quite some juice.

  • by node 3 ( 115640 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:21PM (#29559661)

    In practice this is correct. OTOH, add an photocell and one could, at least in principle, power a device. Of course as others have mentioned running a wire as well as the fiber optic solves this problem.

    Yeah, seriously. I mean, how much damage can a 10 watt laser really cause, anyway?

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @04:30AM (#29563189) Homepage

    Apple wants something better than USB crap. Apple knows Intel has the IP to make something better. Apple lets Intel in on the gig so Intel will be more willing to eventually drop USB. All Apple needs to do is convince Intel that this will be big enough that Intel's share of the booty will still be bigger than USB. That and convince Intel they can't go it alone because Apple controls what goes on the iPods. That way Apple and Intel get to rape the consumer together. This is what you get when people buy based on brand name ... that brand gets to jerk the market around.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"