Intel: Light Peak coming in 2011, to succeed USB 3.0

Intel this week demonstrated more of their upcoming Light Peak cable, a high-speed optical technology for interconnecting different electronic devices. The chip-maker stated that the technology would be ready for manufacturers by the end of this year and start shipping in 2011.

With USB 3.0 starting to come into the mix, some of have expressed doubts over how Light Peak would gain any prominence in the market. Intel answered those questions this week at their Intel Developer Forum: “We view Light Peak as a logical future successor to USB 3.0. In some sense we would like to build the last cable you will ever need,” said Kevin Kahn, Intel’s Director of Communications Technology Lab. 

USB 3.0 boasts backwards compatibility and is likely to see rapid adoption among vendors as the majority of peripherals today rely on USB 2.0. Investors have questioned how Light Peak could see penetration in the market given that fact and Kahn stated in his keynote speech that the two technologies would not conflict as Light Peak "enables USB and other protocols to run together on a single, longer cable and at higher speeds in the future.”

To demonstrate, Intel brought out a laptop connected to a Light Peak cable using a USB 3.0 port and simultaneously transmitted a Blu-Ray video, an HD video feed, and a mirrored display all onto another screen. The USB 3.0 port used in the laptop was still able to connect and use regular USB devices. Asked if the USB 3.0 port would be the standard port for Light Peak, Kahn replied that it was "a likely place to start because it is common" but that "you could take the size way, way down."

Light Peak currently tops out at 10 gigabits per second, twice that of what USB 3.0 is rated at. Intel claims that a 20Gbps version is in the works and that it can be scaled up to 10 times the current limit within the next decade. The company further stressed that electrical cables through copper are reaching their limits due to electromagnetic interference (EMI), thickness, and length and asserted that optical would come to replace them in the future as it transfers data through light instead of electricity. 

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