Intel has renamed its Light Peak technology as Thunderbolt and has chosen Apple to be its first strategic partner, with the MacBook Pro series being the first to get the new connector and the Apple iPad 2 rumoured to be next.
The development cycle of Thunderbolt has been faster than expected given that Intel Labs demonstrated a working prototype using "Light Peak" interconnect technology at last year's Consumer Electronics Show during the keynote of Intel's CEO, Paul Otellini with the first device featuring the technology coming in May 2010.
Thunderbolt is still a proprietary interface though; some peripheral makers like Promise Technology, LaCie, Western Digital have backed the interface but the overwhelming number of peripheral partners haven't yet confirmed that they will be embracing it.
With a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 10Gbps, it has the capability of handling several data-hungry devices at the same time and is up to twenty times faster than USB 2.0 (Intel says that it will be able to transfer one year of MP3 playback in 10 minutes).
Intel ultimately wants Thunderbolt to replace existing interfaces like SCSI, SATA, USB, Firewire and even PCI Express with only one connector ruling them all. While this might seem to be the more elegant and logical solution, there's a big problem; Thunderbolt is starting life very much an Intel-product.
While some might argue that USB and PCI, two widely used PC technology, were designed and tested in Intel's labs, the fact that the semiconductor giant has chosen to release the full technical specs of Thunderbolt under NDA to partners only doesn't bode well.
Similarly, Intel doesn't seem to have any plans to create an industry consortium like PCI-SIG or the USB Implementers Forum to promote the technology globally; as expected, Thunderbolt will support DRM from the onset as it is supports DisplayPort which is HDCP-compliant.