Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Intel’s Light Peak OR USB 3.0?

By Lisa Huff

After Intel’s (INTC) Developer’s Forum last week, there is renewed interest in Light Peak. For those of you that don’t remember one of my first blog posts, Light Peak is an Intel-developed optical interconnect techonolgy that uses a new controller chip with LOMF and a 10G 850nm VCSEL-based module with a new optical interface connector that looks very similar to the one used in Avago Technologies (AVGO) MicroPOD transceiver. Light Peak is aimed at replacing all of your external connectors on your PC including USB, IEEE 1394, HDMI, DP, PCIe, etc. It is also targeted at other consumer electronic devices like smart phones and MP3 players.

Many in the industry think Light Peak is intended to replace USB 3.0 even before USB 3.0 is finished being standardized. I tend to disagree. USB 3.0 is a 5G data rate and to me, will bridge the gap between existing USB 2.0 (480 Mbps max) and the 10G that Light Peak can provide. Just because they are being developed at the same time, doesn’t mean they will make it to production simultaneously.

While Intel is now saying that 2011 will be the year for Light Peak to take off, I’m still skeptical. There may be some really high-end applications like video editing that may need this bandwidth, but your run-of-the-mill PC user isn’t going to want to pay the extra money for it when you probably won’t be able to actually detect the improvement. And, what might be more important – what kind of power consumption difference is there and how does this affect battery life?Or is this technology not meant for laptops? I’m not sure these questions have been sufficiently answered yet.

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