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Apple may be first with Light Peak

Rumours are doing the rounds of the Internet that Apple will be the first company to use Intel's forthcoming optical interface.

Light Peak is a new high-speed optical cable technology designed to connect electronic devices to each other and supporting data throughput starting at 10Gb/s with the potential to scale to 100Gb/s over the next decade. However, even at 10Gb/s, transfer of a full-length Blu-Ray movie would take fewer than 30 seconds to move from one device to another.

Chip-making behemoth Intel asserts that existing electrical cable-based data transfer technology in mainstream computing devices is approaching practical limits for speed and length, due to attenuation, noise, and other issues.

Light Peak's promised prodigious speed will be thanks to optical technology that transmits data using light instead of electricity, thus allowing for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than is currently possible with USB 3.0 and FireWire (IEEE1394).

Light Peak will also have the ability to run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the connection of devices such as input peripherals, displays, disk drives, docking stations, and so forth.

Intel says Light Peak components are expected to hit the shops in late 2010, with PCs and peripherals coming in early 2011.

Which brings us to a rumour that surfaced late last week to the effect that Apple may get an initial exclusive on Light Peak implementation for its next refresh of its MacBook Pro notebooks, possibly in April, 2011, or conceivably even before.

SlashGear's Chris Davies notes that new rumours suggest Apple's MacBook Pros will get a significant refresh by April 2011, including up to 512GB of SSD storage in a wholesale shift to solid-state memory, as well as elimination of the internal optical drive.

As if that weren't enough, rumour has it that Apple will be the first to adopt Light Peak, and that the Cupertino company will have exclusive use of the new interface for an undisclosed period.

In a follow-up piece posted on Sunday, Davies further observes that Light Peak is intended not only as a USB 3.0 replacement, but as a universal successor to the full spectrum of existing high-speed data transfer interfaces, including SCSI, SATA, USB, FireWire, PCI Express, Ethernet and HDMI, which would mean that instead of an array of I/O ports - each taking up space and requiring logic board support - Apple could eventually offer just a few Light Peak ports.

If these Light Peak rumours are accurate, it would help explain Apple's non-adoption of USB 3.0 connectivity on its systems as yet. Possibly USB 3.0 will be passed over entirely.