On Monday Kirk Skaugen, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group, said that the company is shooting for around 100 Thunderbolt-based peripherals by the end of the year. He said the number of devices is expected to grow as Thunderbolt expands from Apple's Mac OS X universe over to Microsoft's Windows-based realm starting this summer.
"We have 21 Thunderbolt devices in things like storage and displays in the marketplace. We have a hundred targeted by the end of the year, and hundreds of Thunderbolt devices targeted by the middle or end of next year,” Skaugen said.
The news arrived during an Intel event showcasing the new third-generation "Ivy Bridge" Core processors. He said there would be a higher Thunderbolt integration in computers sporting the new processors later this year. The Z77 board for the new "Ivy Bridge" processors actually includes an option of Thunderbolt data transfer lanes to help push data faster in and out of PCs.
"You don’t want to wait to download your ... video or your high-definition movies. What traditionally had taken over five minutes to take a high-definition movie and put it into your PC, you can now do it in 30 seconds," Skaugen said.
The Ivy Bridge chips will also support USB 3.0, giving consumers a second connectivity option. Intel has always stated that both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt would co-exist, and that desktops and laptops will come packed with both technologies. However USB 3.0 has had a head start, infiltrating both Mac and Windows-based computers at a slow pace since last year.
Last month Intel spokesman Dave Salvator said that the company will finally release optical cables for Thunderbolt later this year. Unlike the current copper versions, these should provide more bandwidth and longer cable runs in the "tens of meters" although devices will need their own power supply at greater lengths. Running power over longer optical cable will cause a impedance-induced power drop and thus be impractical, he said.
Current Thunderbolt installations in Apple Macs are based on copper, but they will still be compatible with the fiber optic cables launching later this year. For consumers, this means they will be able to purchase existing Thunderbolt products on the market and switch over to optical cables without having to make hardware changes to their current rig.
Intel co-developed Thunderbolt with Apple, and originally designed the new tech as a faster alternative to USB 3.0 using fiber optics to transfer data at speeds of up to 10 Gbps. First introduced back in 2009 and then launched on Apple Macs in 2011, Intel wanted to reduce the number of ports on a PC and Mac by running all data transfers, networking and display protocols (including DisplayPort) through a single optical port. It would even support PCI-Express 2.0 for connecting external devices.