Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Apple Behind Intel's USB Competitor?

Comments Filter:
  • I can move my special video (porn) collection in 3 second!!!!
  • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:53AM (#29556287)

    Put it on iPods and it becomes ubiquitous almost immediately. They could charge extra for a usb cable or dock.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tinkertim ( 918832 )

      Put it on iPods and it becomes ubiquitous almost immediately. They could charge extra for a usb cable or dock.

      Well, looking at the diagram, dongles to connect USB and other types would be the means to do that. Personally, if it works as well as they say that it works, I'd be opting for gadgets and devices that just support it natively.

    • by Fred_A ( 10934 )

      Put it on iPods and it becomes ubiquitous almost immediately. They could charge extra for a usb cable or dock.

      I'm not sure it's going to be terribly efficient to charge said iPods though. Maybe Apple is going to add a power socket.

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by willy_me ( 212994 )

          From the photos, it looks like it is a standard USB connector. The optical part likely connects through the centre of the connector. I imagine the standard 4 copper conductors are still in place. This makes sense as it enables low cost cables and peripherals by simply using the existing USB standard.

          Future computers could use the physical connector as the only interface to the machine while retaining compatibility with existing USB devices. Kind of like how those Mini-TOSLINK [] cables work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Comboman ( 895500 )
      Yeah, because those first generation Firewire-based iPods [] were so popular that Firewire completed supplanted USB as the dominant computer interface standard.
      • Re:Put it on iPods (Score:5, Informative)

        by MCSEBear ( 907831 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:49PM (#29560751)
        So using a 400 megabit per second Firewire port was less efficient than using a 12 megabit per second USB port? USB 2.0 did not exist yet.

        Say you have a 32 Gig flash based MP3 player. The original USB spec can fill that up in just under six hours! Convenient!

        If you have a larger 160 Gig hard disk based MP3 player, then the original USB port can fill that up in just under one day and six hours! Why would anyone want a faster interface than that?

        In comparison, the original Firewire standard can transfer 32 Gigs in just under eleven minutes. 160 Gigabytes can be transferred in just under one hour.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mr Bubble ( 14652 )

        The iPod was new, and not yet ubiquitous. Also, they were fighting against Intel rather than with them. With Macs, iPhones, iPods, iTablets, and Intel, they can start a new standard overnight. BTW, when they switched to USB, I understood, but it was soooo much slower than Firewire.

  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:54AM (#29556301) Journal

    So you're saying Apple is behind this new technology coming from intel at their behest but it's all part of a scheme to devise a new technology that will get intel to compete with... intel?

    Man, you must REALLY think Steve Jobs is clever! Imagine, getting intel to go into competition with itself!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Swift2001 ( 874553 )

      Actually, what's the matter with competition? If USB 3.0 is actually as good as they say, that's okay. If there's a real purpose to delivering multiple protocols through a single optical cable the thickness of a hair at 10 Gbps then up to 100 Gbps, it would be relatively easy to connect six or seven peripherals, run them at max, and add in the connection to the 36" monitor running at 2048 x 3840. The two things are not competitors. There might be uses for them both/neither. Let 'em compete.

      I think Apple's m

  • No power transfer.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Seth Kriticos ( 1227934 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @10:56AM (#29556341)

    USB now a days is often used to charge devices too, which is not possible with these optical interfaces. Because of this, I don't think this will have much future for portable devices, so nice try, but I'm not buying it.

    • by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:02AM (#29556405)

      They will have a hybrid copper/optical [] wire to power devices : "In addition, Intel said it's working on bundling the optical fiber with copper wire so Light Peak can be used to power devices plugged into the PC, he said."

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      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.
      • by selven ( 1556643 )
        30% (current maximum light efficiency) * 40% (current maximum solar efficiency) = 12% efficiency for light based energy transmission. Not that good compared to wires.
        • for your comment, can I please get an explanation as to why we lose from both the light efficiency and then solar (heat I assume)? also what are you suggesting wire efficiency is, as IIRC from the basic stuff I've read here and there wire efficiency goes down over distance. just curious.

          • The 30 and 12 percent are for converting from electricity to light and then back again....

          • by selven ( 1556643 )
            X units of electricity go into light source. 0.30X units leave as light (70% converted into heat). 0.30X units enter solar cell. 0.40 * 0.30X (0.12X total) units of energy leave the cell as electricity, the rest being lost as heat.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          30% (current maximum light efficiency) * 40% (current maximum solar efficiency) = 12% efficiency for light based energy transmission.

          Actually, photovoltaic cells are more efficient when illuminated by monochromatic light than they are when illuminated by sunlight (narrower spectral spread means you can pick a semiconductor to hit the peak efficiency). You can easily get 50-60 percent conversion of laser light.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by node 3 ( 115640 )

        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 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JDeane ( 1402533 )
        To be honest I never quite understood why USB was not just plug in either way and just use some sort of auto negotiate to figure out what pins do what. So there would have been no guessing :( Oh well maybe lesson learned?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TeknoHog ( 164938 )
          Firewire was designed to do just that, whereas USB was intended for cheaper and simpler devices. Of course, having two different technologies for different kinds of devices was too complicated, so now we "simply" have USB with a dozen different connectors, speeds, and host/device/OTG capabilities.
      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by owlstead ( 636356 )

          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 Nyall ( 646782 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:49PM (#29559409) Homepage

          Nope. I suspect the idea is:
          The user can plug the monitor into any port,
          and then plug the mouse into any port,
          and the keyboard into any port.

          And it all works.

        • Since the cable can be 100 feet (30+ m), I'd put my computer in the basement, put even bigger fans on it and overclock it a bit more. Then I'd run a cable to my living room TV and bedrooms, so that the whole house can simultaneously use a single computer from many different local monitors/keyboards. It's pretty damn elegant and efficient if you ask me. Since you only need one computer for the house, it's worth it to make it awesome: Multiple CPU sockets, multiple GPUs - this is stuff that has entered the ma
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity ( 188756 )

      USB now a days is often used to charge devices too, which is not possible with these optical interfaces.

      Here's an optical interface that can transfer lots of power: C02 laser []. You wouldn't want to feel around the back of a computer with one of these behind one of the interface connectors, though.

  • 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;

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "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?

    • Re:Replace? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Alef ( 605149 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @01:13PM (#29557641)
      Perhaps, perhaps not. If the transition is made as a step to a new generation of connectors, you will hopefully end up with a generation that has fewer connector types. After all, we have managed to go from

      DE-9 (Serial port) + DB-25 (Parallel port) + DA-15 (Game port) + PS/2 (Keyboard and mouse) + VGA (Screen)


      USB + DVI (+ FireWire for some cameras).
    • 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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ascendant ( 1116807 )

      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.

  • Maybe, like FireWire, it'll deliver better on its claimed speed, and 10 Gbps will actually be 10 Gbps.
    • by unfunk ( 804468 )
      Maybe, like Apple's previous poster child Firewire, it will be freaking awesome but have absolutely no uptake in the consumer market, leading its own champions to drop support for it (see 5G iPod, recent Macbooks)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by petermgreen ( 876956 )

        see 5G iPod,

        recent Macbooks
        The air never had firewire, probablly because it always designed as a cut down ultraslim machine.

        The basic polycarbonate macbook has always had firewire 400.

        All apples other current machines have firewire 800 (which is compatible with 400 with a wiring adaptor)

        The 13 inch unibody didn't initially have firewire which many people at the time thought was a sign of apple dropping it. However either the pundits were wrong or apple decided the backlash was too much because soon a

      • I think Firewire served Apple's purpose well. During the time that USB was still catching up (for several years), Apple computers had a freaking fast peripheral bus which made them very desirable for video and photo people. That gave them the edge they needed to stay relevant and perhaps dominate in that area, to a limited extent.
  • It would be perfect to have a small simple and single connection between a laptop, enhanced iPhone/iPod, or *cough* tablet *cough* and an external display (power would be the only other connection needed, unless the proposed connector contains power pins). The display would contain ports for hardwire networks, USB, firewire, speakers, "web" camera, microphone, eSATA, etc. (much like Apple's and others current display products).

    This would be Apple's answer to docking stations that often have rather large fix

  • ... such as the long settling time when a new device is plugged in, and the loss of continuity when a device is unplugged and quickly plugged back in. 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.

    BTW, they could have included a USB path via the DVI/HDMI cable connection, so USB devices could be plugged directly into the monitor. I do worry that even Ligh

    • Those are software problems, not hardware.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kimvette ( 919543 )

      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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Gee, Intel, thanks for the complete lack of information on your page. Licencing costs? Connector shape? Power? Protocol overhead?
    Though I'll admit, the cheap laser effect and helpful conversion from x bits transfered per second to height of x stacked dollar bills in miles does add a lot of class.
    Could we wait with announcing new protocols until there's actual technical information on them to be had?

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:25AM (#29556617) Homepage

    ... cable system, too. It would be passively translated, using exactly the same bit level protocols, etc. It would be slower in most cases, of course. This would be so that metallic connection needs can be seamlessly integrated into the same bus architecture (which I hope fixes the mess they made of USB).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 )

      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?

  • an interoperable standard which could handle massive amounts of data and 'replace the multitudinous connector types with a single connector

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what USB is supposed to be?

    • Re:Purpose (Score:5, Informative)

      by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @12:40PM (#29557343) Journal

      You're wrong. USB is and was for hooking up peripherals like keyboard/mice/printers/low-bandwidth devices to effectively replace the old RS-232 serial and parallel ports of yore. USB was never intended to replace the interface that goes to your monitor, your hard drives*, and your ethernet.

      * Yes, we're all aware of USB storage, but see all the comments above about how even low-end devices today can swamp USB... if USB was so great for this then eSATA never would have come into existence.

      This new standard appears to be point-to-point and with all the knowledge we have now it will hopefully be efficient. Additionally, 10Gbps is the starter speed... Intel was talking about scaling it to 100Gbps without too much difficulty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      USB was meant to replace a multitude of ports, including:
      • Mouse (PS/2 or RS-232) and keyboard (PS/2 or 5-pin DIN) ports.
      • Analog (joystick) ports.
      • MIDI ports.
      • Parallel (printer) ports.

      If you look at a computer from around 1994, it will probably have all of these and things plugged into most of them. A modern laptop can have the same set of devices all plugged in to a USB hub, connected to a single USB port. This same laptop, however, will probably still have:

      • DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort connectors for a
  • MagSafe? (Score:3, Insightful)

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

    Even with the criticisms (e.g., []), 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.


  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:38AM (#29556757) Homepage

    IEEE1394 or FireWire or iLink had issues with IP if I recall correctly and it was more than just the name it was known by I think. Will this new thing be even more heavily encumbered by patents? I really with manufacturers would grow a pair and stand up against these emerging "standards" in favor of standards that everyone can use. This is especially true of those that utilize encryption and DRM schemes to control how the technologies are implemented. ("Oh sure! You can use our patented technology for free, but you have to sign here, here and here and remember, you can only use it in ways that we tell you. If you use it to exercise 'Fair Use' rights, then we will yank your license and sue you into the ground.")

    • 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.

    • You can use our patented technology for free, but... If you use it to exercise 'Fair Use' rights

      Fair Use is a defense to copyright infringement, not patent infringement. There's no way to claim "I used your patented technology without a license, but I only used it for educational purposes, or in a news reporting circumstance, or I only used it for 30 seconds."

  • Market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:40AM (#29556787)

    USB dominates the peripherals market because it allows for cheep peripherals.
    Monitor cables are specialised to not require the monitor to do much work.
    Ethernet cables allow high transfer rates between expensive devices.

    What is the market for this?
    Will it require "expensive" tech on both ends or will the PC be able to do the lifting?

  • 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?

    • Not sure what your measure of "unable to compete" is. Firewire is not dead, in fact I think the number of FW800 devices has increased. This is much less than the number of USB devices, but "unable to compete" overstates the current situation. FW800 is sufficiently fast enough for a file server in my home office (but I'm not swapping to those drives, rather it's for shared files.) So Firewire has a nice niche market, generally sustained by its advantages and widespread use for Macs in their niche market

  • by DTemp ( 1086779 ) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:45AM (#29556841)

    As soon as the industry settles on Light Peak... Apple will start using the Mini Light Peak connector, which will join the list of other connectors that they minified or adopted:

    -Mini DVI
    -Micro DVI
    -Mini VGA
    -Mini Display Port
    -Mini Toslink

    • How else are they going to gouge you for an adapter to hook an Apple notebook to just about anything besides a USB device if they get rid of all of those other ports?

  • I wonder just why USB3 cannot be used as that one-connector-to-rule-them-all stuff. In fact, anybody knows why monitors aren't offering the USB2 option? It's a bandwidth problem or what? And why is not more widespread the use of USB2 as networking port? Just a matter of speed? USB2 is speedy enough for most networking uses, and USB3 will be faster than most Ethernets. Of course you'd need routers with USB2 connections, but they could start with one or two connections at first and see if people bought it. As

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      USB3 is pretty marginal for connecting a monitor. Your average single-link DVI interface has up to 3.96 Gbps of bandwidth, which a typical 1920x1080 LCD @ 60 Hz nearly saturates. USB3 is rated at 5 Gbps but if it's anything like USB2, you'll probably see ~2 Gbps of actual throughput and a huge CPU load. USB2 is horrible as a display interface as it is really only good for connecting small secondary displays to display static 2D images. You have only 480 Mbps of theoretical bandwidth, which is enough to driv

  • intel build a hackintosh? what does that mean?

    apple is planing to make os x alot more open?

    apple is planing to use more intel parts that may end up a said core i3 system that is stuck with intel gma video?

    apple is planing a real desktop tower?

    intel is braking the EULA?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mr_lizard13 ( 882373 )
      I doubt Intel broke an EULA, for what they are worth anyway.

      If all this is true, and Apple did ask Intel to develop this initiative, then I'm pretty sure Apple would have been happy to license that version of OS X for development purposes.

      In any event, couldn't that motherboard been ripped out of an apple computer?
  • USB 3.0 fits these requirements plus its backwards compatible, does light peak? Somehow I doubt it.

    If light peak offered 20x faster than USB 3.0 then id be all for it, for double the speed...please.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.