The trusty USB port may have become a ubiquitous sight on gadgets and computers, but Intel reckons that the omnipresent interface will eventually be replaced by its forthcoming Light Peak technology.
Speaking at IDF in Beijing, Intel’s senior fellow and Intel Labs director, Kevin Kahn, said "We view this [Light Peak] as a logical future successor to USB 3.0," reports PC World. Kahn also added that "In some sense we'd like to build the last cable you'll ever need."
It’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that Intel is abandoning USB 3. The company expects USB and Light Peak to happily coexist in the crossover period. A slide in Kahn’s presentation at the event reportedly read: "We expect both to exist together in the market and perhaps on the same platform at the same time."
Unlike standard electrical connections such as USB and SATA, Light Peak instead takes advantage of fibre optics, which offers many advantages over its predecessors. For a start, it’s already been shown to offer data transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/sec; double what you get from USB 3. What’s more, Intel says it expects this to scale up to 100Gb/sec in just a decade.
As well as this, Light Peak can also accommodate longer and thinner cables without signal degradation. Perhaps more importantly for the gadget generation, though, a Light Peak cable only needs a very small connector.
At the demonstration in Beijing, the Light Peak cable interfaced with a standard USB connector that was hooked up to Intel’s own Light Peak hardware. Kahn said this was likely to be the standard interface at the beginning, as the USB port is currently so common. However, Kahn also reportedly said that "you could take the size way, way down" in the future.
Although it uses fibre optics, Light Peak is also compatible with common protocols such as USB and SATA, so it could easily bridge the gap between electrical and fibre optic connectors without causing too many compatibility hiccups. What’s more, it could also enable higher speeds with these protocols, as well as enabling longer cables.
Intel says that it plans to start making Light Peak available to manufacturers later this year, with products expected in 2011.