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Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Insiders believe Thunderbolt from Intel, Apple will 'greatly affect' USB 3.0

Though Intel has said it plans to support USB 3.0 with its next-generation chipsets, some in the PC market believe Apple's adoption of Thunderbolt could have a major impact.

Citing anonymous sources in the PC supply chain, DigiTimes reported Tuesday that Thunderbolt and its 10Gbps data connection speed could "greatly affect" adoption of the competing USB 3.0 port in the future. It said that in addition to Apple, which added Thunderbolt to its latest line of MacBook Pros, Sony is also said to be considering adopting the technology into its high-end notebooks.

Last week, Intel publicly said it plans to support USB 3.0 alongside Thunderbolt. But sources reportedly said that Intel is simply hedging its bets by adding USB 3.0 support to its next-generation chips, code-named "Ivy Bridge."

"Sources believe Intel's strategy of adopting both technologies into its next generation products is to minimize the risks of placing all the eggs into one basket," the report said.

People in the PC industry reportedly believe that USB 3.0 is a "transitional product" with legacy support for older USB devices. Thunderbolt, on the other hand, is viewed as the true next-generation successor.

Formerly code-named "Light Peak," Thunderbolt has data transfer speeds that are 20 times faster than the current market standard, USB 2.0. Thunderbolt's 10Gbps speeds are also twice as fast as the USB 3.0 specification.

For comparison, a FireWire 800 port is 800Mbps, while an Express Card slot has bandwidth of 2.5Gbps. Thunderbolt's speeds are accomplished with copper wire, though previous versions of Light Peak were demonstrated with fibre optic strands allowing speeds of up to 100Gbps. Thunderbolt was co-developed by Intel and Apple.