Intel today released a couple tidbits to cast more light on Thunderbolt I/O and give folks some perspective concerning its road map. This is my next details some of the features which are outlined in greater detail over at the brand new Thunderbolt web site, which mostly covers branding and various technicalities. For example, we now have it in writing that all Thunderbolt-branded products are to interoperate across all vendors. Per official information, the maximum allowed length of electrical Thunderbolt cables is three meters. Plugs are compatible with Mini-DisplayPort, but DisplayPort cables won’t work as a Thunderbolt cable replacement.
The biggest takeaway is that active optical cables are coming “sometime next year.” Optics will extend Thunderbolt cables to “tens of meters”, but they’ll still provide the same 10 Gbps bidirectional data transfer speeds per channel (there are two channels per cable), much as today’s electrical cables that have circuitry in cable ends. In all, about twenty third-parties are backing Intel’s technology, which isn’t that much considering that Thunderbolt, after all, is a future-proof I/O technology from the world’s largest chip maker.
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