Intel's Thunderbolt could face stormy times after Acer backs out
| by Anujeet Majumdar |
The biggest problem that Thunderbolt, Intel’s super-fast communication technology, has always faced is its pricing. Since it was first introduced on Apple’s Mac line-up in 2011, the initial $50 pricetag has been a constant source of criticism. When you do the math, users had to shell out Rs 2990 at the time, just for a cable. However, there were a few takers for the technology.
After being introduced on Apple, it was Acer who picked up the Thunderbolt baton in 2012 as the first Windows PC maker to integrate Intel’s communication chipset. That decision now seems to have been revoked, according to CNET.
Acer announced last week that it will be not be featuring Thunderbolt ports on any of the devices in its line-up. While talking this, CNET reported Acer spokeswoman Ruth Rosene saying "We're really focusing on USB 3.0 -- it's an excellent alternative to Thunderbolt." Rationalising the decision, Rosene said "It's less expensive, offers comparable bandwidth, charging for devices such as mobile phones, and has a large installed base of accessories and peripherals including external hard drives, flash drives, keyboards, mice, and gamepads."
Acer has dropped Thunderbolt integration from its future device line-up...
And that is the crux of the problem. In 2013, the twin points of better utility and improved USB performance coupled with Thuderbolt’s high cost may be causing Thunderbolt to lag behind in the rat race.
Intel is not losing hope, though. The company seems to be holding on to its dream of spreading Thunderbolt usage widely, even if it means having to for-go the lucrative low-budget segments of the industry. Reinforcing the company’s stance, Jason Ziller, Director of Intel's Client Connectivity Division, was reported saying that "PC adoption is increasing."
Talking about the growth potential of Thunderbolt, Ziller said, "There are more than a dozen new 4th-generation Intel Core processor-based platforms already launched with Thunderbolt, including from Lenovo, Dell, Asus, and others, with more coming throughout 2013. Thunderbolt is targeted toward premium systems. It is not targeted to be on mid-range or value systems in the next couple of years."
The Thunderbolt technology is very useful for high-stress situations like video editing, where users can definitely benefit from its 10Gbps data-transfer rates as well as the ability to “daisy-chain” multiple peripherals together so a laptop with a single Thunderbolt port can handle many devices. From what Intel has to say, each Thunderbolt connection actually can carry 40Gbps of data, with two 10Gbps that can send data bidirectionally.
The biggest supporter for Thuderbolt remains Apple, which is a force to be reckoned with despite a relatively small market share in the PC sphere. The company has brought Thunderbolt to most of its devices, including the MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and the Macbook Air.
Ziller is positive about high-end users picking up Thuderbolt for its performance. Explaining his stance, the Intel executive said, "Thunderbolt 2 enables 4K video file transfer and display simultaneously. We believe it will help increase adoption as more users want to have the capability to work with high-resolution video or photos."
The ace that Intel has up its sleeve is its chipset technology. The processors take care of a lot of input-output processes, so integrating Thunderbolt into them means that PC makers can get that feature into their machines without any add-on costing. Currently USB 3.0, which transfers data at 5Gbps, found a lot of success when it was integrated into Intel chipsets in 2012. Intel is tightlipped about this possibility, though.
The problem that Thunderbolt now faces is its high pricing and the lack of a substantial number of computers that support the technology. Currently Intel’s third-generation Thunderbolt controller chip, which is code-named Redwood Ridge, is priced at $10 (Rs 593 approx) and can power two ports. The company has still not revealed the price tag that the fourth-generation controller chip, codenamed Falcon Ridge which supports Thunderbolt 2 will come to the market with. What may work in its favour are the reduced cable costs with new suppliers coming into the market. But it should not be forgotten that Thunderbolt has already been in the market for nearly two and a half years and still not found widespread success.
Tags: Intel , Thunderbolt , Intel’s super-fast communication technology , Apple , Apple Mac line-up , Acer , Acer Thunderbolt first Windows PC maker , USB 3.0 , Jason Ziller , Director of Intel's Client Connectivity Division , third-generation Thunderbolt controller chip , Redwood Ridge , Thunderbolt 2 , Intel chipset
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