Intel: Thunderbolt to storm PCs this year

Expect to see Thunderbolt appearing on a range of new PCs, says Intel executive

Barry Collins
28 Feb 2013

Intel expects a "significant ramp" in the number of PCs shipping with Thunderbolt ports this year.

Introduced in early 2011, the high-speed Thunderbolt interconnect has been embraced across Apple's Mac line-up, but is rarely found on even the most high-end of PCs.

Speaking exclusively to PC Pro, Intel's director of marketing for Thunderbolt, Jason Ziller, says 2013 will be the year we start to see more mainstream adoption on PCs.

"There's actually about 20 PCs and motherboards on the market with Thunderbolt," he said. "We're looking at a fairly significant ramp in the PC and motherboard space this year, particularly on some of the new Haswell [processor] platforms that are coming out this year."

Ziller claims the number of Thunderbolt peripherals is also expanding rapidly, with many devices that have already been certified by Intel for Mac now going through the "rigorous" approval process for Windows. "We have a another 15 to 20 devices going through the pipeline right now," Ziller said, adding that meeting the demands of 10Gbit/sec signalling was "quite challenging".

Ultrabook spec

One way Intel could ensure rapid adoption of Thunderbolt would be to make it a compulsory part of its Ultrabook specification, but Ziller said Intel is reluctant to push the technology on price-conscious PC makers.

"Thunderbolt is listed as recommended, but it's not part of the baseline requirement," said Ziller. "The reason for that is Thunderbolt is a little bit of a cost-adder. Thunderbolt is really targeted at premium Ultrabooks - and laptops, workstations across the board - and heavily focused on users doing things with AV and media, because that's where you get the best result.

"We don't expect it to go top-to-bottom any time soon," he added.

Thunderbolt wouldn't be the first advanced connector to fall by the wayside - IEEE 1394/FireWire, eSATA and DisplayPort have all struggled to achieve mainstream adoption. Ziller is confident Thunderbolt won't suffer the same fate, but is equally nervous about positioning it as a USB killer.

"I wouldn't call it [Thunderbolt] niche - we see it scaling fairly significantly over the next couple of years," he said. "I couldn't say if we would expect it to be completely ubiquitous, from top to bottom, like USB is."

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