In the late 1990s, Intel developed USB, which made it easier and faster to connect external devices to computers, consolidating a multitude of existing connectors. Intel’s vision for Thunderbolt was not just to make a faster computer port, but a simpler and more versatile port available to everyone, enabling, “a future where high-performance single-cable docks, stunning photos and 4K video, lifelike VR, and faster-than-ever storage are commonplace.
A world where one USB-C connector does it all – today, and for many years to come.” Intel is announcing that it plans to drive large-scale mainstream adoption of Thunderbolt by integrating Thunderbolt 3 into future Intel CPUs and by releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification to the industry next year (2018).
With Thunderbolt 3 integrated into the CPU, computer makers can build thinner and lighter systems with only Thunderbolt 3 ports. For the first time, all the ports on a computer can be the same – any port can charge the system and connect to Thunderbolt devices, every display and billions of USB devices. Designs based on integrated Thunderbolt 3 require less board space and reduce power by removing the discrete components needed for existing systems with Thunderbolt 3.
In addition to Intel’s Thunderbolt silicon, next year Intel plans to make the Thunderbolt protocol specification available to the industry under a nonexclusive, royalty-free license. Releasing the Thunderbolt protocol specification in this manner is expected to greatly increase Thunderbolt adoption by encouraging third-party chip makers to build Thunderbolt-compatible chips. Intel expects, “industry chip development to accelerate a wide range of new devices and user experiences.”
In addition to support from Apple and Microsoft, Thunderbolt 3 appears on more than 120 PC designs on systems with 7th Generation Intel Core processors, the latest MacBook Pros and many of peripherals. Intel sees the interface as universal across portable docking stations, storage media connections, gaming machines (4k or higher video), and virtual reality.
Until now, VR has – Intel says – required multiple cables to transfer the experience from the PC to the headset in real time for 2K resolution. Thunderbolt 3 can deliver up to 4K resolution in virtual reality with a single cable.
The benefits are endless – simplicity to performance to versatility – as Thunderbolt 3 becomes an essential part of our digital world by creating a universe of possibilities.