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What ThunderBolt I/O (Light Peak) Means For The Mac

What ThunderBolt I/O (Light Peak) Means For The Mac

According to numerous rumors from across the web, Intel’s Light Peak technology will be coming to the Mac very soon, likely with the MacBook refresh Thursday.  Apple has rebranded the technology as ThunderBolt I/O, and plans on using it as a crossover port – that means that they won’t be replacing primary ports such as USB and FireWire with ThunderBolt, but instead adding one or two ports in addition to the current input ports.

These crossover ports, according to a claimed spec sheet of a 13″ MacBook Pro found at MacRumors, will be able to handle high speed I/O as well as Mini DisplayPort for video/audio output.  My thoughts on the matter are that if ThunderBolt can handle 10 GB/S bandwidth, and have support for Mini DisplayPort, then why not HDMI, USB 3.0, and other standards?  This could be achieved in a variety of interesting ways.  A high bandwidth input method like ThunderBolt could lend itself to a variety of interesting applications.

This is an interesting concept, and I see a lot of possibilities embedded therein for Apple.  For instance, by using ThunderBolt as a crossover, Apple could essentially replace the ExpressCard slot by acting as a live connection point.  Considering that the current ExpressCard/34 standard is limited to a maximum bandwidth of 2.5gbps, and the fact that the impending ThunderBolt implementation is capable of up to 10GBPS of bandwidth, anything that currently takes the form of an ExpressCard could take the form of a Light Peak dongle or hub.

Another interesting possibility for the ThunderBolt port is docking.  Since the ThunderBolt port has such high bandwidth, it can support a number of current technologies all at once.  Theoretically, this would allow a docking device to be built that could handle a display, as well as the USB and FireWire ports standard on a Mac, while only connecting to a single port, or would allow a dock that connected to ALL ports to provide previously unseen features on MacBook docks, such as a large number of extra ports, ports that are not standard on Macs (such as eSata or USB 3), etc.

Any way you spell it out, Apple new Light Peak-based Thunderbolt connection technology, which will undoubtedly evolve throughout the years, may become the ultimate addition to your Mac, and will surely improve today’s Macs in a way that will not only set Apple far ahead of its competition, but leave a permanent checkpoint in history as well.


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